The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court blocked Gov. Tom Wolf’s plan to place tolls on as many as nine major interstate bridges.
The Court sided with three Pittsburgh-area municipalities – Bridgeville Borough, and South Fayette and Collier townships – against the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), citing that the Wolf administration had violated procedures in getting to the advanced stage of considering the idea.
PennDOT had said the bridges are in deteriorating condition and wants to use tolls to pay for replacement and maintenance, while bringing on a private firm to complete the work. The agency got unanimous approval for the proposal from the state’s Public-Private Partnership Board in November 2020, and only announced in February 2021 which bridges it intended to use for the program. The three municipalities argued the board improperly approved the plan since it did not list affected bridges, and the towns did not receive proper consultation, as required by state law.
“It is with gratitude and great relief to hear the court ruled in our favor,” said Rep. Jason Ortitay (R-Washington/Allegheny). “Listening to the arguments in court earlier this month, it was clear PennDOT violated the Public-Private Partnerships (P3) law and doesn’t have a leg to stand on pushing this boondoggle. The state could have saved a lot of time, millions of dollars and energy if the Wolf administration had just played by the rules to begin with and followed the law.”
GOP gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano said in a statement, “I’m very pleased that the court has issued a preliminary injunction to stop Governor Wolf’s major bridge tolling scheme. PennDOT was planning to move forward with few details about how expensive these tolls were going to be and without approval from the General Assembly. The P3 process needs to be reformed and that’s why I supported legislation last year that would provide a fixed notice requirement, a public comment period, and stronger oversight by the General Assembly.”
Wolf’s push for tolling comes as states increasingly look to user fees to make up for declining gas tax revenue that is not keeping up with the demands of fixing highways and bridges.