In an end-of-fiscal-year compromise, legislators penned a deal with Governor Wolf to finally put an end to PennDOT’s P3 Major Bridge Tolling Initiative. The tolling scheme had already been halted by a state court twice – on May 18 with a temporary injunction and on June 30 with a permanent injunction in Commonwealth Court – but that decision could have been appealed.
“This is the third strike for bridge tolling, and it’s finally out. Game over,” said Rebecca Oyler, PMTA’s President and CEO. “Tolling would have been disastrous for the trucking industry in Pennsylvania, and especially for all the small businesses hit hardest by fuel prices and supply chain challenges. We are pleased that policymakers have recognized that tolling is not the way to fund transportation infrastructure and have now written this into the state’s P3 law.”
Sen. Wayne Langerholc’s SB 382, a bill supported by PMTA to stop the tolling projects and reform the P3 process, was amended to include compromise language that Governor Wolf has agreed to. Critically, the bill rescinds the P3 Board’s November 12, 2020 action approving the P3 Major Bridge Initiative. It provides that PennDOT may continue work on the nine bridges, while preserving preliminary designs and engineering plans, but prohibits tolls from paying for the projects as previously proposed.
The bill’s reforms to the P3 law will prevent a similar situation from occurring in the future by requiring increased transparency and oversight. SB 382 requires PennDOT to publish detailed analyses of proposed P3 projects and provides a new 30-day public comment period prior to the P3 Board voting on any project. Following a P3 Board meeting, PennDOT must distribute copies of the P3 Board’s resolutions, including to the General Assembly, which will have more time to assess proposed projects.
Although the revised law would still permit tolls to be proposed for P3 projects, they would be limited only to optional tolls and only for new projects or services (for example, a managed toll lane), not for existing infrastructure. And any project proposing an optional toll will require a unanimous vote of the P3 Board to approve.
“For more than a year and a half PMTA and its members have spoken out about the impact tolling these bridges would have on their businesses and their communities, and today we learned that the voices of the trucking industry were heard. This is a resounding win,” said Oyler.
“PMTA is grateful to Sen. Langerholc, who from his first hearing as chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, where PMTA testified in opposition to PennDOT’s tolling plans, has been steadfastly committed to ensuring that PennDOT can’t act alone and in the dark though its P3 process. Today, the General Assembly ensured that this is true now and in the future.”