The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

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July 29, 2011

PennDOT Secretary: Tolling state roads a long-term solution

(Continued)

July 28 —

“I don’t know what the federal government is going to do, but we can’t be unprepared,” Schoch said.

The enabling legislation being suggested by the report would make it easier to toll roads.

Ted Leonard, president of the Pennsylvania AAA Federation, which represents the interests of drivers, said the organization would support the enabling legislation, but it would have to consider each specific tolling plan.

“I don’t think we got into any specifics of tolling any specific highways, but I think that is something that will have to be looked at,” said Leonard, who was also a commission member. “I don’t think there is any doubt in anyone’s mind around this table that additional funding is needed.”

The Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association, which represents trucking companies in the state, supports the higher gasoline taxes and registration fees but does not endorse additional tolling, said Jim Runk, association president.

“We’re not opposed to toll roads, but we’re opposed to tolling existing roads," Runk said. “You can divert around the toll road, and that’s what we don’t want. We don’t want people going on roads they shouldn’t be on.”

Interstates and state roads could be tolled, but no specific projects are being discussed or recommended at this time. The commission had reviewed a potential tolling plan for state Route 422 in the Philadelphia suburbs, but that was only an example and not a specific proposal, members said.

The federal Department of Transportation would have to sign off on tolling for interstate highways and state-maintained roads, but the bar is considerably higher for interstates, as Pennsylvania found out the hard way when trying to place tolls on Interstate 80 in recent years.

That proposal was rejected by the Federal Highway Administration in 2010 because revenue would have been directed from the I-80 tolls to fund transportation and mass transit projects around the state.

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