Staff in Montgomery County north of Philadelphia have proposed a special toll surcharge to raise capital to help pay for a new interchange and connector road from the Pennsylvania Turnpike into central Norristown. The project is an all-electronic tolled interchange on the east bank of the Schuylkill River and a spur road. The spur - termed locally the Lafayette Street Extension or Corridor project - is 3.1km (1.9 miles) of signalized arterial into Norristown.
Timothy Carson vice chairman of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission says that they are producing a "very robust plan" including detailed commitments to plow toll revenues on I-80 back into the road in order to persuade the Feds to give the green light to tolling the presently free interstate.
Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission CEO Joe Brimmeier and Vice Chairman Timothy Carson today told a state house appropriations committee hearing in Harrisburg that they are "very optimistic" and "we feel strongly" that the Federal Government will approve Turnpike plans to toll I-80.
The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission has released to legislators some of the Citigroup financial numbercrunching used to lobby for Act 44 and the tolling of I-80. But they continue to refuse to release what they have referred to as the basic "Citigroup Analysis" which is the mainstay of their financial model.
Following the Feds letter of Thursday casting doubt on the legality of tolling PA/I-80 Pennsylvania Gov Edward Rendell said he prefers a longterm lease concession of the Turnpike. The AP quotes Rendell as saying today:
- the lease will raise "significantly more" money for the state, and
- remove what he called the "I-80 problem"
They quote him as stating bluntly: "I would prefer to do leasing of the Turnpike."
USDOT have told Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC) and DOT that their application to toll I-80 does not meet the requirements for even conditional approval. And they have posed four pages of questions they say must be answered by state authorities if they wish to continue with the application. The questions are sharply worded, suggesting the feds consider the state application to be a shoddy piece of work.
The US House-Senate transport appropriations conference removed an I-80 anti tolling amendment from a budget bill late last night, according to its main sponsor and champion northern PA congressman John Peterson (Repub).
Peterson issued this statement which we quote at length because it echoes many of the themes being heard along I-80:
A new poll shows opposition among Pennsylvania voters to tolling I-80 is 62% to 28% in favor. This is a considerably greater margin of opposition than to privatizing the Turnpike with a longterm lease/concession (50/37).
When asked if they had to choose between tolling I-80 and leasing the Turnpike to a private company 41% choose the private lease concession, while 36% prefer tolls on I-80 to privatization.