Oberlander strives for transparency with tolling

HARRISBURG The public would have greater input and oversight into potential highway and bridge tolling under legislation that overwhelmingly passed the House on Tuesday, Nov. 16, said state Rep. Donna Oberlander (R-63).

Senate Bill 382, which passed the House by a vote of 125 to 74, would make needed reforms to the Public-Private Transportation Partnership (P3) law by increasing transparency and clarifying the general assembly's voice in the process.

"Tolling carries a heavy burden on our local economy, and when PennDOT put forth its proposal earlier this year to toll two local bridges, including one here in Clarion County, I was surprised and disappointed," Oberlander said.

"The original P3 law was never designed to implement tolling on existing infrastructure, and it certainly was never intended to prevent the public from having a voice in the process of additional fees and tolls. P3 projects are supposed to be partnerships not forced fees from one government agency," said Oberlander.

Specifically, Senate Bill 382 would prevent that from happening again, in addition to requiring PennDOT to create a detailed analysis of all P3 proposals to include exact locations and cost estimates, as well as social, economic and environmental impacts before a P3 board to approve.

"While I remain steadfastly against tolling, I understand the need to appropriately fund roads and bridges," she added. "But I also realize that it will take far more innovative approaches so that the motoring public isn't forced to foot the entire bill."

The legislation is back in the Senate for final approval before going to the governor for his signature.

In the meantime, Oberlander encourages residents to continue submitting public comment to PennDOT on the impact of tolling.

Residents can watch an online public meeting at http://www.penndot.gov/i80CanoeCreek and submit their public comments through Dec. 1 via email at i80CanoeCreek@pa.gov; call their hotline at (814) 201-9939 or by mail to PennDOT District 10, Attn: I-80 Canoe Creek Bridges Project, 2550 Oakland Avenue, Indiana, Pa. 15701-3388.

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