Less than a week after Pennsylvania agricultural organizations and businesses staged a news conference along rural the Interstate 80 corridor, federal regulators rejected the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission's proposal to place tolls on Interstate 80 in Pennsylvania. U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters said the application didn't meet technical and statutory requirements.
Chief concerns centered on whether the Turnpike Commission's payments to the state Department of Transportation were based on an objective market valuation of the highway. And the underlying issue still remains – how to pay for upkeep of the state's road systems and bridges.
News of the federal rejection was welcomed by ag groups. "Farmers across Pennsylvania, especially those located along the I-80 corridor, are thrilled with the decision," responds Pennsylvania Farm Bureau President Carl Shaffer. "Tolling of I-80 would have imposed a major economic hardship for Pennsylvania agriculture by increasing costs on everything transported to and from the farm."
The set back to Governor Ed Rendell's plan for additional road funding is only that. The Turnpike Commission could revise or resubmit its proposal.
Or state lawmakers could approve a 75-year lease of the turnpike system to a private entity. Increasing taxes on gasoline or oil company profits are alternatives.