Pa. interstate lease likened to double tax

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NEW YORK – Transportation officials in Pennsylvania recently signed an agreement that awards control of Interstate 80 from the state Transportation Department to the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission.
The 50-year lease agreement for Interstate 80 includes a provision asking the federal government to charge tolls to the major thoroughfare.
Act 44 calls for the turnpike to transfer $83.3 billion to the Transportation Department for projects around the state, with an additional $33 billion going into improving Interstate 80. The act grants the Turnpike Commission the power to maintain the stretch of the interstate that runs through Pennsylvania. The plan calls for all toll revenue to be reinvested back into the highway.
Pennsylvania’s 73 public transit agencies will be funded by other revenues and income from the turnpike.
Authority. Before tolls can be instituted, the Federal Highway Administration must grant the Turnpike Commission and Pennsylvania Transportation Department tolling authority.
“If we want to ensure a growing economy that continues to add jobs, we need a safe, viable transportation network funded by a long-term revenue stream,” stated Allen D. Biehler, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation secretary.
“Act 44,” Biehler argued, “provides significant funding for our transportation needs. Our partnership with the turnpike allows the commonwealth to improve its aging transportation infrastructure.”
Biehler’s view is not without opposition.
“The American people should not be required to pay for the same highway twice – once through their tax dollars and again through new tolls on federal interstate highways,” Congressman Leonard Boswell, D-Iowa, stated in a press release.
Opposing act. Oct. 10, Boswell, along with Congressman Lee Terry, R-Neb., introduced the Toll Road Prohibition Act of 2007 (HR 3802). This bill would require states and cities to repay the federal government all federal funds used for construction before collecting tolls for the use of highways, bridges or tunnels.
The legislation does not prohibit the states from entering into public-private partnership involving tolling; it simply requires the states to repay the federal Highway Trust Fund first.
The lease agreement can be viewed in full at http://www.paturnpike.com/I80/pdf/Lease_and_Funding_Agreement.pdf.

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