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Two Pennsylvania Trade Associations Come Out Against PennDOT's Bridge Toll Proposal

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - There is now even more opposition to PennDOT's plan to toll nine bridges throughout Pennsylvania, including one right here in Allegheny County.

Two Pennsylvania trade associations are against the plan to toll bridges, saying that would increase project costs.

The Associated Pennsylvania Constructors and Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association have both come out against the plan to toll the nine bridges, including I-79's bridges over Route 50 in Allegheny County.

"Unfortunately, tolls will impact our industry disproportionately," said Brandon Moree, the Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association Membership communications director.

He says truck drivers are already paying more than enough to support state infrastructure.

"The trucking industry pays about 40% of all the transportation taxes while using only about 9% of the miles. So, a toll -- especially a toll that would charge trucks more than it charges faster vehicles -- is going to exacerbate that," said Moree.

The Associated Pennsylvania Constructors typically support tolling to cover transportation projects but their vice president says the cost of private financing would make the project more expensive.

"It's just that we have seen what are called public-private partnerships fail around the country," said Robert Latham, the Associated Pennsylvania Constructors executive vice president. "We're concerned with the lack of information that's available on cost-benefit analysis and whether the tolls would actually pay for the finance."

He says better options are available.

"Right now, we give $700 million dollars of our gas tax money – that's 11 cents per gallon that motorists pay when they fill up at the pump -- that goes to Pennsylvania's general fund in order to pay for state police," said Latham. "That's part of the problem with our gas tax. Twenty percent of it is going to non-highway related spending."

He also suggests the state allocates some of the federal COVID-19 relief funding towards PennDOT's plans.

He added that depending on tolls to offset costs is risky. However, the state transportation secretary says that it's not as risky as financing an entirely new bridge.

She also expects the projects to be paid for by lower-cost municipal bonds through a federal program. She says the tolls are needed because PennDOT has less than half the money it needs to maintain roadways and bridges.

Meanwhile, some lawmakers are taking steps to stop the plan.

The state senate is pushing for a bill to require the legislature's approval of any transportation project with a user fee.

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