Sunday, April 11, 2010

I-80 tolls

Congressman Paul Kanjorski applauded the rejection of tolling I-80 as did Conressman Chris Carney. The state of Pennsylvania will now have to scramble to find a way to plug a $470 million gap in the budget to maintain our roads and bridges. Kanjo was joined in opposition to tolling the road by just about every other elected official in the area except State Rep and Senate candidate John Yudichak who had the balls to vote for the plan.

Gov. Rendell said Without alternate revenue sources, Pennsylvania will not have money to pave 300 miles of highway annually and repair 100 structurally deficient bridges each year.

The alternative is A 2006 PennDOT study that had recommended higher gasoline taxes and vehicle registration fees, but legislators were reluctant to do that, and came up with Act 44 as a substitute.

So we have 3 choices here folks.

1. Put tolls on I-80 like many other states. Which has already been shot down.

2. Raise the gas tax. Since the Republicans control the state senate you can probably rule that out because their be all and end all is lower taxes.

3. Wait for some disaster to happen like a bridge collapsing killing a lot of people then the state government will go into panic pass mode like what happened in Minnesota a few years ago.


James said...

...or reduce spending elsewhere. Do you really believe that the PA State Government does not already have enough money?

Anonymous said...

If they toll I 80 the money should not go to SEPTA, like the plan. Also it should on fix infrastructure that is near I 80 (i don't know maybe within 20 miles)

Gort said...


Please give me a "realistic" list of $450 million in budget cuts that could pay for infrastructure.

I will be happy to put in on the front page.

Anonymous said...

Please see Wagner release on Turnpike swaps (Fri) and Wall Street Journal about Phila. water treatment swaps (also Fri). The bond lawyers and financial wizards on Wall Street are stealing our money.

Anonymous said...

Why not ask the public sector unions to dial it back a bit?

You know, ask them to not bankrupt the private sector that pays their salaries by force.

Oopsie. I Forgot. I'm preaching to the enemy here. Gort is the enemy, the Federal employee not big on sharing anything other than his love of unions. And his bloated benefits. And the union-approved candidates he endorses.

What a farce?

Gort said...

6;31 I'm not the enemy. Share your ideas and I will be happy to put them on the front page.

Anonymous said...

6:31, YOU'RE CAUSING ME DIFFICULTY. I wanted to smack Gort for giving Yuddi credit for having balls for voting for tolls but then you come along with your same ol same ol of blaming the employees for wanting a living wage and benefits. You are like all the others who would rather see state employees out of work and starving but then when you need a government service, you bitch because the departments are under staffed and can't jump to your attention quick enough. Gort, Screw Yuddi! The problem I have is that everytime they come up with a tax and fee, a good portion of it has to go to Philly to bail them out. How about if we cut the legislature in half and how about if legislators such as Yuddi get taken to task for asking for per diem pay and then using it to buy a house. I'm still in an uproar over that move and what really pisses me off is that Youdichak would still be doing it if he hadn't been caught. Phony! Mayor Tom should be creaming it from the roof tops.

Stephen Albert said...

Tolling I80 is not a good idea, as people particularly in Central & Western PA really rely on it as the only major roadway in many places (something we take for granted in NEPA, with I80, I81, I84, I380, Route 307, Route 11, etc). I've been to Western PA many times, and in places it's practically Kentucky...tolling I80 harms people with few alternatives & would put even more pressure of rural roads that are not designed for the traffic.

That noted, the costs of maintaining the highway are real. Here are a few things I'd do:

1. Combine the Turnpike Commission & PennDOT into a single entity. Eliminate duplication & outsource what could be outsourced. Democrats will not like it, but too bad. Subject the new entity to an annual external performance audit specifically looking for waste & efficiency gains. Maybe do this in partnership with a University (such as Penn or Penn State) where the audit could serve as a teaching tool. The private sector constantly looks for's time for the government to do the same thing.
2. Develop dedicated funding sources for Philly & Pittsburgh mass transit. The other poster was dead-on...too much general transportation income goes towards those two specific areas & it's simply not equitable to the rest of the state.
3. Increase the gas tax. Republicans will not like it, but #1 could be something of a trade-off.

No free ride here, but tolling I80 would mean that there was not toll free way to get directly from Eastern PA to Ohio. That just doesn't seem right.

Anonymous said...

Gort, you are correct. for everyone that is against tolling 80 what is their idea to raise 450 million each year! we need reoccurring revenue to pay for these improvements. and you are correct, you cant cut your way of spending to pay for these. people suggest a gas tax, with higher millage vehicles coming on line the amount of gas purchased with drop, reducing the amount of tax collected.
over 80% of traffic on interstate 80 is out of state traffic, i say tax those that are doing the damage.......

Anonymous said...

The one sure element of a plan to raise money/reduce cost is to lease the turnpike to a for-profit firm. The Turnpike commission is part of the well know corruption in PA - jobs depot for senators. Think about this - why would the Turnpike commission have a manager for every MILE of road they "manage"????

Second, there are many ways to cut costs for the state's operation without cutting services. For example, how many programs are funded by the state in Luzerne county who provide transportation services for someone??? Yes, 6 is the answer. If consolidation occurred costs could be cut and better coordination would occur for the "customers".

The problem is that local, state and federal government has no incentive to reduce costs. They simply try to find a new revenue stream (remember gambling taxes were going to eliminate RE taxes???).

As an employee, I'm sure you see daily opportunities to reduce costs or improve service - but nothing can or will be done because of the entrenched interests.

Tolling of 80 was a bad idea for a lot of reasons and not just because of the negative impact it would have on jobs in our region. This was seen as the lesser of all the evils by the pols, not the best solution for he Commonwealth.

PS Great picture in the TL today - you and your blogger brethen deserve a lot of credit for doing good work in raising the level of debate where reasonable people can disagree.

Hope to see you soon

Zen said...

just curious, point 2 you made said Republicans would never raise the gas tax, correct? by extension, does that mean the democrats would? and please tell me who would be most adversely affected by that?? also, which political party pounds the idea that they are for the poor and working families?

James said...

Gort - I'll work on getting that to you.
But you didn't answer my question: do you believe that the PA State Government does not have enough money? Do you really believe that the problem is that they need more? That has to be the first question. Does the PA State Goverment have too Little money? If you say the answer is no - then you agree with me and we simply need to prioritize. If you say "yes" then how much more do you believe they need? $450 Million? Once they get that, will that be enough? $450 Billion? How much?
I find this to be a great discussion. Thanks for your work.

Leo said...

Just remember, the tolling of I80 was to get more money to "repair" the roads and bridges. It is ironic, the we trying to give PennDOT extra money to do that job that should be doing now or more importanlty should have done with past funding.

Anonymous said...

those that would pay are OUT OF TOWN travelers......... or lets just let the road and bridges fall apart, just hope you arent on the bridge.... i dont see what the issue is

Anonymous said...

You are all missing the point here. Federal Law is very clear in that toll money on the interstate can only be used to fix that particular road. Im guessing the state spends a great deal of money on I-81 for repair and upkeep. If Rendell were truly interested in raising money he could have submitted an application that only covered the costs of I-80 and that would have been approved. He knows this very well. His only interest is getting enough $ to support Philladelphia infrastructure needs before he leaves office. He doesn't give a dam about the rest of the State.

Gort said...

Many good points.

James, I have to say the state government has too little money to fund the services that have been promissed. I think a big part of that is the state of the economy. If unemployment was cut in half revenue to PA and every other cash strapped state and local government would make things a lot easier for just about every Governor in the USA.

Zen, I just read your post and wonder why anyone would even want the job of Governor. Yes the gas tax is regressive but it is the primary source of funding for highways. You got to get the money somewhere.

Anon 1:40, I don't see how involving a for profit company will reduce costs or deliver better service. Privatizing public functions has failed to deliver on it's promise. Case in point. It has really worked out well for Luzerne County sending kids to a private prison.

Steve, I like your idea of combining the TPK Comm. and PennDot.

These are complicated problems with no easy solutions.

Anonymous said...

Just as you can point to the Juvie center, I can point to numerous activates that the private sector does a lot better than government bureaucrats - its one of the reasons gov outsources road building to private contractors or implementing the new time system at the courthouse.

But it is a bit disingenuous to use a situation where FRAUD was used and laws were broken to suggest the private sector is not more efficient - and frankly, I'd expect more from you.

If I remember correctly, the savings generated by outsourcing - using the same toll structure was in the hundreds of millions over the life of the agreement.

Anonymous said...

My letter to the editor this week addresses the road repair problem:

The governor is looking for ways to finance highway repairs and Harrisburg thought that tolling I 80 was the answer. Apparently the Feds don't agree even though Pennsylvania is the main route for interstate travel of both passenger vehicles and commercial trucking. Pennsylvanians are required to repair the roads destroyed by out of state drivers.

I will once again offer a suggestion to finance road repairs.

Pennsylvania car owners are required to have their vehicles inspected once every year and the mileage of every vehicle is recorded at that time.

My suggestion is to place an additional sales tax on gasoline which everyone is required to pay. Every year, when the car owner has his/her vehicle inspected, the inspecting garage will issue a mileage certificate which the car owner will send to Harrisburg to receive a rebate on gas tax paid. A predetermined mileage per gallon chart can be put into place and all vehicle owners will use that chart to determine the amount of rebate due. The rebate could be in the form of a tax credit with the state.

In addition, out of state commercial vehicles should be required to purchase a certain amount of fuel while traveling Pennsylvania roads or pay a maintenance license fee. It is only fair that those who cause wear and tear on the highway system be required to help with the upkeep.

It is time for innovative problem solving.

Wil Toole

Pizza Pete said...

Hey, I was on I 80 last night and the road is so bad that I spilled my pizza all over my lap. I think they should get Lou Barletta to take some of those tacos he is hording, mix them with some good pizza and fill those pot holes. Or, they could just close I80 and detour all those Canadian bacon eaters to pizza town for a pizza reward.