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3 Communities Along I-79 Sue PennDOT To Stop Bridge Toll Project

By: KDKA-TV's Shelley Bortz

SOUTH FAYETTE TOWNSHIP, Pa. (KDKA) - Three communities along Interstate 79 are going to court to stop PennDOT's plan to add tolls to the area.

When PennDOT announced a plan to toll I-79 in the Bridgeville area to pay for bridge repairs, it came as a huge shock to residents, local businesses and officials.

The communities alleged in a lawsuit that nobody at the state consulted with them.

State Rep. Jason Ortitay made a bold statement at Thursday's news conference announcing the lawsuit. He said they had no other alternative but to file this lawsuit.

"I hope by holding this press conference that they hear us loud and clear and this tolling proposal gets thrown out the window, especially in light of the federal infrastructure bill which was passed last week, which essentially guarantees Pennsylvania between $4 billion and $5 billion," said Ortitay.

Bridgeville, Collier and South Fayette municipal officials say PennDOT and the Public Private Transportation Partnership, known as P3, failed to follow its own procedures.

First, the suit claims they never consulted with the affected parties.

Second, the lawsuit claims that the P3 Board never specifically authorized any of the nine bridge toll projects last November. Instead, P3 approved a general resolution for PennDOT to act, which the communities allege, gave no notice to the public and violated the law.

"When PennDOT on its own accord came up with this, they acted outside of their authority. So we're asking the court to set that back and to stop all the projects," said lawyer John Smith.

The three communities are asking the Commonwealth Court to rule that the P3 Board and PennDOT failed to follow proper procedures and to halt temporarily and then permanently the I-79 bridge toll project.

"If the toll were to go through, we're looking at the diversion of the traffic. That's going to fall out onto our local roads which is going to cause expense to the township which could essentially raise taxes because we'll have to do road repairs," said South Fayette Commissioner Gwen Rodi.

Sources also tell KDKA that several other communities, including Cecil, Peters, South Strabane and Upper St. Clair, have also considered suing, but are not part of this lawsuit.

"PennDOT has a thirst for revenue that I have never seen before in any government agency while I've been in service here. Tomorrow we could write a check to PennDOT for $20 billion and tomorrow they'd be back asking for more," said Ortitay.

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