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Lawmakers Working On Bill To Prevent PennDOT's Proposed Tolling Of Interstate 79 Bridge

BRIDGEVILLE, Pa. (KDKA) -- There is more pushback over the proposed tolling of a bridge on Interstate 79.

When PennDOT announced they were considering tolling bridges, they did it without needing legislative approval. Business owners near the proposed tolling site say this could force them to close up shop for good.

State Senator Devlin Robinson and Representative Jason Ortitay came out swinging Friday against the plan.

"It's a reckless proposal that does not take into account the reality of this area," said Ortitay

Both say they were left out of the conversation until just before PennDOT made the announcement. They're now among a group of lawmakers pushing a bill to prevent the bridge tolling.

"This toll will be a permanent solution to a temporary problem," said Robinson.

PennDOT says the tolls are needed to make up for a shortfall in funding from people traveling less. PennDOT wants to widen the bridge and make Interstate 79 three lanes in each direction between Bridgeville and South Pointe.

Local leaders say the area is thriving right now. They worry a toll will drive people away and stop any future growth.

"This is not fair to place the department financial issues on the residents of our community and those of our local and surrounding municipalities," said Gwen Rodi, the president of South Fayette commissioners.

"If we resume back to normal and I get back to 100 percent of my sales, the 24 months before this happened, it will take me between 24 and 30 months to get back to even," said Mark Snider, the owner of Lucha Street Tacos. "If that tax happens, I don't have a chance."

Snider owns two businesses that have already taken major losses from the pandemic. And just like him, other shop owners could follow.

For now, Ortitay and Robinson are putting aside partisanship, saying it'll take both sides to work on a deal to stop the toll.

PennDOT estimates the cost of bridge rehab work will be about $2.1 million. State leaders think they have less than a year to get this bill passed.

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