PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Right now you can drive north on Interstate 79 from West Virginia, turn east on Interstate 80 and never pay a toll within Pennsylvania.
But under the bill sent by the Obama administration to congress, Pennsylvania and other states could turn those highways into toll roads to repair aging highway infrastructure.
The highway trust fund that relies on a gas tax is running low.
But states like Pennsylvania kicked that idea around a few years ago and generated, not revenue, but angry meetings full of truckers for example.
In October of 2009, as people rallied against the idea in Grove City, trucker David Long of Franklin said, while filling up his rig at a truck stop on I-80, “Bad idea I think it is.”
And trucker Bob Florez of Long Island, N.Y. said, “Just more money coming out of my pocket. I have to raise my rates to my customers and they’re not gonna be happy about it.”
Among those who advocated against the idea was Dr. Tracy Miller of Grove City College, who studied just how I-80 revenue works.
Today he said the arguments are similar.
“With Interstate 80 basically the amount of money that people were paying in gas taxes and truckers, were paying in their fuel taxes was enough to cover the cost of maintaining Interstate 80, so we we’re basically saying, “OK, people are already paying for Interstate 80. We’re going to make them pay additional money, which essentially means that some of that money would be going to other parts of the state, either for other highways or for public transit. And so you’re having the drivers on one highway pay for the rest of the state,” he said.
That, among other things killed the idea a few years ago.
But with new hybrid cars that don’t depend on gasoline, governments eventually will look at mileage-based fees more and more.
“It only makes sense if you do it on all highways,” says Miller. “If you only toll interstate highways, then you’re not treating the drivers on other highways the same and you’re encouraging trucks and everybody else to travel on secondary roads and bring pollution into the towns and noise into the towns and cities instead of keeping them on the interstates.”
Acting PennDOT press secretary Richard Kilpatrick issued a statement Monday on the latest proposal in Washington:
“If the federal government allows states to toll interstates, Pennsylvania could in the future consider that tool as more hybrid and all-electric vehicles become more commonplace. Increased fuel efficiency will mean mileage-based fees such as tolling will have to be considered. But thanks to the leadership of Governor Corbett and our state legislature, Act 89 provides sufficient funding for the foreseeable future.”