Local and Government Officials Comment on PennDOT Court Ruling | Local

BROOKVILLE – Jefferson and Clarion County officials have issued statements regarding the recent Commonwealth Court decision in Cumberland County that halted PennDOT’s proposed plan to toll up to nine interstate bridges, including the Northfork Bridge at Jefferson Co. and the Canoe Creek Bridge at Clarion Co..

According to the Associated Press article, “Commonwealth Court Judge Ellen Ceisler ordered the halt, saying the State Department of Transportation (PennDOT) must halt all studies, acquisitions of right of way, construction or work under any contract, and postpone any scheduled hearings, meetings or expenses.

The toll is offered under the Major Bridge Public-Private Partnership (MBP3) initiative, under the PennDOT Pathways program. The Pathways program seeks to identify potential alternative financing solutions for transportation in the state. Under this initiative, the tolls collected would be used for the construction, maintenance and operation of the replacement bridges.

The lawsuit was filed in March by Cumberland Co. and seven municipalities. Local members of the No P3 Bridge Tolling Coalition are pleased with this decision and will continue to speak out against the proposed plan.

“The coalition is pleased that the decision delays the toll and hopefully initiates a better solution to the bridge issues. We stand together and will not let our guard down until a solution is developed that does not weigh on residents and businesses of Jefferson County,” said Jamie Lefever, director of economic development for Jefferson Co.

His counterpart at Clarion Co. echoed that sentiment.

“The CCEDC, along with our partners in the No P3 Bridge Toll Coalition, were very pleased with this news. We will continue to push this toll issue to ensure our highways and bridges remain business-friendly,” said Jarred Heuer, executive director of Clarion Co. Economic Development Corp.

He also noted that there will be a 10 a.m. rally on Wednesday, June 8 in Harrisburg “so we can continue to raise our voices against PennDOT’s toll plans.”

Senator Cris Dush also released a statement on the decision, saying the General Assembly continues to work for a better infrastructure financing solution.

“It is clear from everything I have heard from you in the 25th Senate District that the toll plan must be terminated, which is why the General Assembly continues to work on various efforts to end the toll plan. and make necessary reforms to the state’s transportation systems and provide alternative transportation revenue streams,” Dush said.

He called the toll effort an “abuse of state P3 law” and that it does not resolve the disparity between the money western Pennsylvania pays in gasoline taxes and the amount of money returned to the region.

Senator Wayne Langerholc Jr., chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, released a statement applauding the court order.

“I have challenged PennDOT’s overreach since I was named chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee in January 2021,” Langerholc said. “The court’s decision on the preliminary injunction restores proper checks and balances on PennDOT’s power. I now urge Governor Wolf to work with the Legislature and find a compromise that is in the best interest of the Commonwealth.

U.S. Representative Glenn Thompson also weighed in on the decision, saying in a statement that PennDOT had “flagrantly ignored public opinion” and called the plan “yet another tax and burden on travelers.”

“This preliminary injunction is welcome news and will immediately stop all work related to the P3 bridge tolling initiative. PennDOT has executed contracts and entered into agreements, which is dishonest and wrong. Thanks to the Commonwealth Court, PennDOT is finally held accountable and bound to obey the law. Hopefully this serves as a warning to those within the agency who think the public isn’t watching,” Thompson said.

As previously announced, PennDOT’s plan would continue one-way tolling at North Fork, meaning traffic would only be charged westbound there. Tolls are expected to be $1-2 for passenger cars and could be in place for up to 30 years, officials said.

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