PennDOT says extra revenue is needed to widen the roadway, but people in Bridgeville are dead set against it.By Andy Sheehan

BRIDGEVILLE, Pa. (KDKA) — A proposal to put tolls on Interstate 79 is getting poor reviews in southern Allegheny County.

PennDOT says extra revenue is needed to widen the roadway, but people in Bridgeville are dead set against it. They say drivers avoiding tolls on Interstate 79 will clog up the streets, and the project won’t do what it’s intended to do.

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(Photo Credit: KDKA)

State Rep. Jason Ortitay says he is getting an earful from his constituents.

“Since the announcement yesterday, I have gotten hundreds if not thousands of messages and emails and comments about how bad this would be for our area,” Ortitay said Friday.

PennDOT says the tolls are needed to make up for a shortfall in funding for a project to widen the bridge and make Interstate 79 three lanes in each direction between Bridgeville and South Pointe. It’s meant to encourage more development in a developing area, but Ortitay says the tolls would do the opposite.

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“They’re going to drive traffic away from that area and they’re going to drive businesses away from that area and it just defeats everything that we’ve been working on for the past seven years,” Ortitay said.

When drivers hear about tolls, thoughts often turn to ways to avoid them by finding an alternate route. By taking the off-ramp at the Kirwan Heights exit, drivers could try to circumvent the toll by wending their way down Route 50 through Bridgeville, which already has its fair share of congestion.

“Traffic is bad in Bridgeville as it is,” said Robert Della Piazza of Bridgeville. “If people use the Kirwan Heights exit to avoid the toll, it’s going to get worse.”

You might think that increasing local traffic might be good for business, but Heather Knuth says that’s not the case.

“Nobody really benefits from that. These are all destination businesses,” said Knuth.

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Representative Ortitay says he likes the project, he just doesn’t believe in tolling I-79 to pay for it. He’s hopeful that federal funding may be forthcoming in transportation or infrastructure bills.