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Pennsylvania Bus Association opposes bridge tolling

Patricia Cowley

Harrisburg

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s (PennDOT) proposed “Pathways Major Bridge P3 Initiative” is evaluating the following bridges on interstates across the Commonwealth for tolling:

– I-78 Lenhartsville Bridge Replacement Project (Berks County).

– I-79 Widening, Bridges and Bridgeville Interchange Reconfiguration (Allegheny County).

– I-80 Canoe Creek Bridges (Clarion County).

– I-80 Nescopeck Creek Bridges (Luzerne County).

– I-80 North Fork Bridges Project (Jefferson County).

– I-80 Over Lehigh River Bridge Project (Luzerne and Carbon counties).

– I-81 Susquehanna Project (Susquehanna County).

– I-83 South Bridge Project (Dauphin County).

– I-95 Girard Point Bridge Improvement Project (Philadelphia County).

The decision to toll bridges on the interstate system is one that the Pennsylvania Bus Association (PBA) strongly disagrees with.

Our industry already pays more than its fair share to operate on Pennsylvania roadways and additional tolls would only add to that increasing cost.

The COVID-19 shutdown and restrictions in Pennsylvania and around the country has had a devastating impact on travel and transportation operators.

The motorcoach, tour and travel industries are dominated by small businesses, and most often these are family owned, multigenerational businesses.

These small businesses are not capable of withstanding even a modest downturn in domestic travel and tourism, let alone the devastating situation the travel industry is currently experiencing.

As the motorcoach, tour and travel industries are struggling to remain in business, the imposition of tolls once we emerge from this pandemic may be the death blow to our industry.

Small businesses form the backbone of the U.S. tour and travel industry, as well as provide vital links for rural communities, commuting employees, school children, and price-sensitive travelers.

According to PennDOT, tolling for the construction, maintenance, and operation of bridge projects would free up funds for other projects that might not otherwise be possible.

Other possibilities include charging fees for using busy roads at peak times and for use of newly constructed express lanes with less traffic. However, bridge tolling and fees for using busy roads will threaten the viability of the

motorcoach, tour, and travel industries as rising costs will reduce ridership and impact the small businesses at the destination sites.

We urge PennDOT to reconsider their decision to toll bridges on interstates and look for a more fair and equitable approach to funding our transportation infrastructure.

(Patricia Cowley is executive director of the Pennsylvania Bus Association, found online at www.pabus.org.)

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