It would fund reconstructing or replacing these nine bridges without taking money away from other projects, PennDOT says.

By: KDKA-TV News Staff

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – PennDOT announced plans Thursday to start tolling nine bridges across the state in the next couple of years, including on I-79 in Bridgeville.

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With gas tax revenues down and an $8 billion deficit, PennDOT says they have a big money problem. So they say bridge tolling will fund reconstructing or replacing these bridges without taking money away from other projects.

As for here in Allegheny County, PennDOT says the money will replace the northbound and southbound bridges on I-79 mainline over State Route 60 and will also widen I-79 from two to three lanes in each direction.

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“Our reliance on funding models from the last century leaves us especially vulnerable to fund losses stemming from volatile economic conditions and the increasing transition to alternative-fuel or electric vehicles,” PennDOT Secretary Yassmin Gramian said in a press release.

“This initiative will help us make much-needed improvements without compromising the routine projects our communities and industry partners rely on.”

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People are driving less, cars are more fuel efficient, and sooner or later, most cars will be electric. The gas tax is in steep decline. The I-79 bridge near Bridgeville was selected for tolling because our local PennDOT engineer says it needs a lot of work.

“It is extremely congested,” said Cheryl Moon-Sirianni. “On every leg of the interchange, there is either a creek, a railroad or a development. Trying to make improvements to this is quite difficult.”

They say the tolls will capture out-of-state drivers and electric vehicles. And they say the tolls won’t slow down traffic.

“The toll rates are arranged between $1 and $2 typically. It could be a couple cents higher or lower. That range is going to shrink and become a little bit more accurate,” said Ken McClain with PennDOT.

These are the bridges being considered for tolling:

  • I-78 Lenhartsville Bridge Replacement Project (Berks County);
  • I-79 Widening, Bridges and Bridgeville Interchange Reconfiguration (Allegheny County);
  • I-80 Canoe Creek Bridges (Clarion County);
  • I-80 Nescopeck Creek Bridges (Luzerne County);
  • I-80 North Fork Bridges Project (Jefferson County);
  • I-80 Over Lehigh River Bridge Project (Luzerne and Carbon counties);
  • I-81 Susquehanna Project (Susquehanna County);
  • I-83 South Bridge Project (Dauphin County); and
  • I-95 Girard Point Bridge Improvement Project (Philadelphia County).

There will be a public involvement process beginning this spring.

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PennDOT says these tolls will fund more than $2 billion in projects and create a lot of jobs.