There's now a $450 million dollar hole in Pennsylvania's highway and mass transit budget. That's because the federal government has rejected the state's application to toll Interstate 80.
Just last week Governor Ed Rendell said he met with U.S. Transportation Department officials and it went well...
"We had a great meeting with Secretary LaHood. Our legal team made a terrific presentation. The US DOT’s legal team was there, and they agreed it was a credible presentation by our team."
At the time, Rendell said he was optimistic.
Democratic State Representative Joe Markosek of Monroeville is the chair of the State House Transportation Committee. Markosek told DUQ that he was not surprised but "certainly disappointed" because he had not felt good about what he was hearing coming out of Washington the last few months.
Since the highway is an interstate, Pennsylvania needed federal approval to toll it.
Markosek says those who are disappointed and "those who are perhaps euphoric" by the rejection need to work hand in hand to develop a sustainable funding mechanism for Pennsylvania's transportation infrastructure system, and "most of the options are not pain-free."
He says that rural lawmakers who objected to the tolling claiming that mass transit is just a local, urban concern are wrong because 60% of the state's operating funds come from the 5 Philadelphia area counties and Allegheny County. Markosek says mass transit is important to those 6 counties' economies which in turn benefit rural areas.
Markosek says that lawmakers and citizens are always looking to get someone else to pay but these items (roads, bridges, mass transit) which are expensive and they are not free.
Markosek predicted that mass transit would be an early victim of this decision.."the Port Authority of Allegheny County had major (budget) concerns even with funding from tolling I-80" and this is going to be detrimental to the economy of southwestern Pennsylvania.