Saturday, August 18, 2007

Toll PA Interstate Highway Political Gimmick

Is it possible I-80 will become part of the federal road project incorporated into Security and Prosperity Partnership Of North America???

Security and Prosperity Partnership Of North America

Discussion of import

Future of I-80 tolls unclear
By Mike Joseph
Posted on Thu, Aug. 16, 2007

Pennsylvania's two U.S. senators differed Wednesday over whether the state should toll Interstate 80 to raise transportation money, and Gov. Ed Rendell again talked up the idea of leasing the Pennsylvania Turnpike instead.

"Tolling I-80's future is still up and down because of the legislation," Rendell said at an Ag Progress Days news conference, referring to an amendment U.S. Rep. John Peterson added to a U.S. House bill that would block federal money for tolling I-80.

The federal transportation appropriations bill, with the Peterson amendment, has passed the House and is on the U.S. Senate calendar.

But U.S. Sens. Arlen Specter and Robert Casey, in separate Ag Progress Days news conferences, took divergent stances.

Casey said he supports the position of Rendell, who signed Act 44, the state transportation funding bill, into law. The law calls for up to 10 tolling stations along the 311 miles of I-80, to be planned and managed by the state Turnpike Commission.

Of the Peterson amendment, Casey said: "I don't think that's a good idea -- we need all the revenue we can get. ... I don't think it (the amendment) will carry the day in the Senate."

Specter took a hands-off position, saying 511 of the 535 U.S. House and Senate members are from other states and alluding to a proper balance of federal and state authority.

"I-80 tolling has to be decided by the state government," Specter said. "This is a Pennsylvania issue. You don't want all the decisions coming out of Washington, D.C."

Peterson, in yet another impromptu Ag Progress Days news conference, repeated his blistering attack on Act 44, a sign that he's been reinforced by feedback for both his vocal and legislative efforts to undo the measure. He also got noticeably strong and sustained applause when he was introduced to about 500 people at Wednesday's government policy luncheon.

A former state House and state Senate member, Peterson said there's a small but growing movement in the General Assembly to repeal Act 44. He said the law will damage the state's economy and will put the "least trusted agency in state government" -- the Turnpike Commission -- in charge of tolling both the turnpike and I-80.

"It needs to be repealed -- it's just ill-configured," Peterson said. "If they win, taxpayers in Pennsylvania lose."

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