Several of the candidates running for governor say they wouldn’t know what to do, if the federal government denies Pennsylvania’s application to toll Interstate 80.
The Federal Highway Administration is expected to rule whether or not Pennsylvania will be permitted to implement tolls on I-80 in the coming weeks.
Transportation budgeting is already banking on 450 million dollars from the initiative, so the state would have to suddenly fill a nearly half-billion dollar gap if the tolling application is rejected again.
When reporters recently asked the gubernatorial candidates how they’d plug that hole, many didn’t have an answer.
Dan Onorato says he doesn’t have a “plan B” to suggest, but says he’s confident the proposal will be approved this time.
"Well you have a different president. The last time it was rejected you had a different president. And you’ve got an administration Harrisburg right now – and I know Governor Rendell and even some of the legislative leaders that passed Act 44 – they know what the consequences are if it’s not approved. And they’re down there lobbying, they were down there last week, a group of them, making their case."
Jack Wagner, who also didn't have an alternative, says using I-80 tolling revenue to fund transportation projects around the state is wrong.
"It has always been my understanding of the federal law that if you toll a road the money needs to go right back into the road, or intersecting roads."
Democrat Joe Hoeffel says he’d immediately look at increasing the gas tax to fill the 450-million dollar gap. Democrat Anthony Williams would consider issuing new bonds in order to scrape together the needed money.
Republican Tom Corbett says it was wrong to assume the federal government would rubber stamp the tolling application.
"This governor and this legislature in the past made a huge mistake by saying, well, we’re going to have this money because we’re going to have tolling. Nobody indicated from Washington, in my mind, that they ever you’re going to have tolling. That you could go and make a bet. That was like putting a dollar down on the lottery and saying, we’re going to win that. And since we’re going to win that, now we’re going to make our budget on that. suggests shifting money from the General Assembly’s spending account and other government line items."
Republican Sam Rohrer couldn’t offer up alternative funding solutions but said he's against aspects of Act 44, which put the tolling plan in motion.