A Cross Creek Township resident said he started the petition to create awareness.

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — An online petition to stop a tolling proposal on Interstate 79 is gaining traction, with nearly 3,000 signatures.

According to PennDOT, the proposal would add a toll at the Bridgeville interchange in South Fayette Township.

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Pete Linko, a Cross Creek Township resident, said he started the petition to create awareness. He said not many people know about the proposal, and commuters shouldn’t have to pay the price of yet another toll.

“I started this petition because I knew that there were so many in our area that had no idea that PennDOT had the plan to toll I-79,” Linko said. “We wanted to make sure that they were able to voice their opinions on why it was going to affect them negatively.”

PennDOT told KDKA on Tuesday that revenue from the toll would be used for the construction, maintenance and operation of the project.

“I-79 Widening, Bridges and Bridgeville Interchange Project is one of nine candidate projects in the Major Bridge Public-Private Partnership (P3) Initiative, approved by the Pennsylvania P3 Board on November 12, 2020, which includes representatives from the four legislative caucuses, is designed to raise revenue through tolling to address the state’s growing backlog of major bridge replacement and rehabilitation needs. Bridge tolling can provide the funds to repair or replace these costly bridges without using PennDOT’s current funding, which in turn allows those funds to be used for other roadway maintenance, operations and improvements,” said Alexis Campbell, the press secretary for PennDOT.

Campbell said the toll would become a funding source for the bridge and would avoid the reallocation of traditional funding from other local or regional projects. But Linko said if this toll is approved, it would push thousands of commuters to use Route 50 and the Washington Pike, which would create a major backup in traffic.

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“I know there are people that have to traverse up and down the stretch road multiple times a day. That’s going to be an extra burden on them. People that are just trying to put food on the table. Now they have to pay an extra tax just to go to work. It’s not fair to them,” Linko said. “PennDOT put this strategically in this spot because they knew they could make a lot of money off of it. One hundred thousand commuters go up and down that road every day. The unfortunate thing is that now people are going to have to pay the price because of PennDOT’s mismanagement of funds.”

Linko said PennDOT is the root of the problem, and this added toll would only hurt the economy and infrastructure in the surrounding areas.

“PennDOT needs to remember this, that the bureaucrats in Harrisburg are paid. Their salaries are paid by our tax dollars and these projects are funded by our tax dollars. We are the boss of PennDOT and if the people stand together, we send our message straight to them and say we are against this, they will have to listen. People need to understand that their voice matters when it comes to things like this because it’s their money ultimately,” Linko said.

PennDot said crews are analyzing how the bridge tolling could impact local communities and traffic.

“No final decision regarding any candidate project’s status as a tolled facility has been made, and public input is a critical part of any project, especially one potentially involving a toll. Public meetings for all candidate bridges will be held beginning this fall,” Campbell said.

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If approved, construction is estimated to begin between 2023 and 2025, costing between $100 and $150 million. If you’d like to sign the petition, click here.