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, right-of-way acquisitions , construction or work under any contract, and postpone any project 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 say they 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 Jefferson County residents and businesses,” said Jefferson County Director of Economic Development Jamie Lefever.
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 shared that there will be a rally in Harrisburg on June 8 at 10 a.m. “so we can continue to raise our voices in opposition to PennDOT’s toll plans.”
Representative Brian Smith released a statement on the toll discussing Bill 88 of 2012, which states that “the council must assess the scope, setting and impact of each project on citizens and carry out a cost/benefit analysis before to approve the project”.
Smith also said two separate lawsuits have been filed by local governments in western and central Pennsylvania seeking to stop the governor’s latest “highway theft bridge toll system” for violating Bill 88. .
“P3 projects are meant to be partnerships, not fees imposed by a government agency,” Smith said.
Sen. Cris Dush also released a statement about the court’s decision and spoke about her own experiences living in Brookville and the impact of I-80 traffic on the community.
“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 tolling efforts a “misuse” of the P3 Act, and said it was “not well thought out” and does not address the disparity between the amount of money PennDOT receives from the region in gasoline tax compared to what is remitted. In the region.
“For over 50 years, I have seen the impact on the borough of Brookville every time there is an accident on I-80. Truck traffic diverted from Main Street in Brookville and back onto I-80 between the Brookville and Hazen exits is having a devastating impact on downtown businesses. If they place these tolls, drivers will seek to avoid the tolls, which has a daily impact on Brookville, as well as other communities along I-80 where bridges must be tolled, which no one can get away with. allow,” Dush said.
In a statement on the matter, U.S. Representative Glenn Thompson said 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 untrue. 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 will continue one-way tolling at the North Fork, meaning traffic will 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.