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PennDOT Proposes Bridge Tolls to Fund Critical Repairs

With gas tax revenues projected to fall this fiscal year due to the pandemic, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation argues it needs additional revenue to bridge its growing funding gap and repair crucial infrastructure.
March 2, 2021, 10am PST | Diana Ionescu | @aworkoffiction
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Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Jeff Holcombe

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) is starting a campaign to garner support for new bridge tolls, which the department deems crucial for raising enough revenue to rebuild or upgrade nine of the state's most important bridges. "Under its Pennsylvania Pathways program to find other revenue sources for transportation projects, PennDOT announced Thursday it will prepare federal paperwork to begin charging tolls of $1 to $2." The department hopes the virtual public meetings it plans to hold will be "an opportunity to convince the public about PennDOT’s funding crisis, the importance of using tolls to fund the work, and the potential reduction in state-funded local road work if the agency doesn’t find other revenue sources," reports Ed Blazina in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

With the state relying on federal and state gas taxes for 74% of its revenue, the recent drop in travel and growth of electric and fuel-efficient vehicles have led to a growing gap in funding for infrastructure projects. Tolling is an effective and increasingly popular way to replace lost revenue. "Across the country, 195 roads, 137 bridges and 15 tunnels generate about $22 billion annually through tolls." Ken McClain, director of PennDOT’s Alternative Funding Program, says the department has an "enormous responsibility" to the people who drive on the state's bridges and roads every day. "We cannot afford to let these major bridges fail," he said. "If tolling is approved at all nine sites, the funds will pay for $1.6 billion to $2.2 billion worth of work and allow the agency to use gas tax money for other projects."

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Published on Tuesday, February 23, 2021 in Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
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