PennDOT Bridge Maintenance Tolling Initiative Stopped Due to Lack of Details

p3 bridge tolling initiative stopped

In Pennsylvania, the Major Bridge P3 (Public-Private Partnership) initiative was approved in November 2020 that will add tolls to yet-to-be determined bridges to help speed up and pay for the “reconstruction and rehabilitation” of major bridges throughout the state.

The Commonwealth Court stopped the initiative as the initiative violated Act 88 and has blocked the plan moving forward, void ab initio (from the beginning).

Judge Ceisler noted that it was “clear that the (P3) Board had no specific bridges in mind when it approved the initiative in November 2020. There is no indication that the Board engaged in any meaningful consultation with “persons affected” by the Initiative, as Act 88 requires. Instead, DOT purported to do so afterward once specific bridges were announced. This is inconsistent with Act 88’s procedural framework.”

PMTA President and CEO Rebecca Oyler commented on the ruling, saying, “PMTA is grateful to Commonwealth Court for recognizing the necessity to put a halt to all nine bridge tolling projects across the state because it is clear from her opinion that PennDOT violated the P3 law from the beginning. From the day the initiative was announced in November 2020, PMTA has pointed out that the agency failed to follow basic steps not only required by law, but also expected of any government action – communicate before acting.

According to the PTMA, PennDOT would have heard that the consequences of tolling would be catastrophic, especially with diesel prices already at record levels.

“Now is the worst possible time to add $5000+ per truck per year for trucking companies and other small businesses. These are costs that are ultimately passed on to consumers.”

“Today is a good day for the trucking industry and for the driving public in Pennsylvania.”

How will the Major Bridge P3 initiative help the state?

According to the 2020 initiative, PennDOT was carrying an annual funding gap of over $8.1B to maintain and improve state-owned bridges and highways.

According to the initiative, the goals of the funds collected include:

  • accelerating the renewal of major bridges to ensure public safety,
  • avoid time and financial impacts of travel diversion resulting from bridge restrictions and closures due to bridge conditions,
  • help offset gas tax revenue losses which has been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic,
  • ensure in-state and out-of-state traffic to contribute fairly to the replacement or rehabilitation of the bridges based on usage, and
  • create a sustainable funding model for the state’s major bridges.

How will the Major Bridge P3 initiative affect the trucking industry?

This is the second initiative that “now temporarily approved” in the past decade aimed at improving roads and aging bridges on top of the highest fuel tax rates in the nation that lean heavily on the trucking industry.

According to Joe Butzer, Interim President of the Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association, “the trucking industry in PA already pays more than $2B in Federal and State Highway taxes and pays 39% of all taxes owed by Pennsylvania motorists despite trucks only representing 9% of all the miles traveled.”

Fleets will need to plan to pay more toll bridge fees as they travel through Pennsylvania.

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