PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Truckers are pushing back against a PennDOT plan to add tolls to nine bridges across the state.
“I live in North Carolina in Durham, but I’m never home. That’s my home,” said trucker Ted Mebane.READ MORE: Drivers Feeling The Pain At The Pumps As Gas Prices Continue To Rise Across Pittsburgh Area
As an interstate trucker, Mebane’s home is his rig, which can often be found traveling up and down I-79. But if the state begins tolling the roadway, Ted says his GPS will find him ways to circumvent it.
Truckers are incensed at a PennDOT plan to toll 79 as a way to close a funding gap. The money will replace and widen the I-79 bridge in Bridgeville as well as make the roadway three lanes in each direction between Bridgeville and South Pointe.
Cars would likely pay a buck or two, but trucks could pay as much as $10 for a single pass, and the Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association says the industry is already shouldering too much highway funding as is.
“Those truckers are right to speak out. Truckers pay about 40 percent of the costs and taxes in Pennsylvania despite the fact that they only drive about 9 percent of the miles,” said Rebecca Oyler of the truck association.READ MORE: Allegheny Co. Council To Vote On Paid Sick Leave Bill
But PennDOT says it is in a bind. It says the project is necessary but gas tax revenues have dropped off steeply under COVID. It describes the tolls as a kind of user fee for 79 that will benefit the people who travel it.
“We’ve got to make sure that we have a safe and reliable transportation network that people can travel on — trucks, cars, everybody. So we got to look at new ways to find it,” said PennDOT’s Alexis Campbell.
But the trucking industry says there must be a better way.
“So we would urge a more fair and equitable approach to funding transportation infrastructure and one that doesn’t disproportionately impact or target a specific industry, particularly one like trucking which is so critical to the state’s economy,” Oyler said.MORE NEWS: 'Good Eat$ Downtown' Campaign Begins, Aimed At Bringing Business Back To Downtown Restaurants
PennDOT stresses this won’t happen until 2023 at the earliest, and it’ll be subject to public input and public hearings where they’ll likely get an earful from truckers and private citizens alike.