The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission has submitted what it hopes is the final batch of materials to support its application with the Federal Highway Administration to convert Interstate 80 to a toll road.
Act 44, which was signed into law in July 2007, directed PennDOT to lease Interstate 80 to the Turnpike Commission giving the commission oversight of that interstate as a toll road. The Commission then sought approval of tolling I-80 from the Highway Administration which rejected the application in September 2008 due to concerns over how the lease payments compared with other private public partnerships involving major highways.
Commission spokesman Carl DeFebo says they commissioned an independent analysis that reviewed other roadway leases in the U.S. and Canada over the last 10 years and the study concluded that the lease payments that the Turnpike Commission is making to PennDOT are "within the market ranges" compared to recent North American highway leases.
The commission has made quarterly payments to PennDOT over the past two years totalling $2 billion dollars. This comes from the toll increase on the turnpike.
DeFebo says if they get approval to toll I-80, those payments would grow to an average of $1.67 billion annually.
DeFebo says under the proposal $250 million a year for 10 years would be invested in I-80 improvements, four time the current amount of $60 million spent on the interstate annually. DeFebo says kind of spending would help the economy along the interstate corridor.
The spokesman says they've taken steps to address the impact of tolls on residents along the interstate who "use it like a Main Street" coming and going to work and shop. He says if they sign up for EZ Pass, they could drive through the first tolling site for no charge...."so in essence you could drive 50 miles and even more without paying a toll."
DeFebo says they don't expect an answer on their proposal for several months.