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Ed’s Plan for I-80 Foiled

We’ve covered on here in the past Ed Rendell’s plan to toll I-80 across the top of the state. The feds have ruled the plan violates federal law and have invalidated it. I guess he’s going to have to find another way to funnel money into Philadelphia’s crappy public transit system.

Congresman Peterson Responds on I-80 Tolls

Congressman Peterson has an editorial responding to a previous editorial in the Allentown Morning Call that I blogged about here. I agree with the Congressman that tolling I-80 would be a negative for the Commonwealth, and wish him the best of luck in stopping it at the federal level.

UPDATE: Looks like plans are moving ahead on tolls anyway.

Good I-80 Toll Editorial

This CentreDaily editorial is pretty spot on:

Making I-80 a toll road is, at best, a quick fix and would disproportionately affect those living near the swath the highway cuts through the Keystone State countryside from New Jersey to Ohio. Worse, it would greatly expand the authority of the highly inefficient, patronage-laden Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission.

Toll booths at the borders — incoming and outgoing — would be less objectionable.

Leasing the turnpike — turning over a valuable asset to a for-profit corporation with less, if any, accountability to the public — is an even worse idea.

Read the whole thing.

Trucking Industry Against I-80 Tolls

I’m glad to see the trucking industry coming out against the tolls.  It’s a stupid idea, and to add to the stupidity, they are studying the possibility of doing the same thing to I-95.

Currently, to see Bitter, in Virginia, I pay the 3-dollar tolls in Delaware, both ways (actually, I’ve been bypassing them now, it’s easy, actually), a 5 dollar toll one way in Maryland, and a 2 dollar toll both ways for the Fort McHenry Tunnel.  Grand total is 15 dollars in tolls.  That’s, of course, in addition to the $600 a year I fork over to the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission just on my daily commute.

Pennsylvania ought to be ripping up toll booths, not looking for excuses to build new ones.  I’d be a very bad anarcho-capitalist, but I’ve always believed that tax money is well spent on public roads.  Everyone benefits, even people who don’t drive.  It ought to be a collectively borne cost.  There are some narrow instances where I think tolls make sense, but otherwise it’s too easy for state governments who are bad at managing cash to raise money through tolls as a back door method for taxation.

It’s not just Pennsylvania.   Delaware is talking about raising it’s 21 mile section of I95 to 4 dollars both ways, up from 3 dollars.  I’ve also heard they are considering putting a toll plaza on the 896 offramp to discourage people from shirking the toll on the back roads like I’ve been doing.  That’s 8 dollars to go through Delaware and back!  At some point I think the federal government needs to step in and tell the states enough.   The feds are eager to use their power to regulate interstate commerce for stupid crap that’s neither interstate nor commerce, they can damn well use it for what it was meant for!

Putting The Fast in “Fast” Eddie

Looks like the legal work on the I-80 toll issue goes to the Governor’s law firm.  Conflict of interest?  Bite your tongue!

Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell (D) has handed his former law firm millions in payment for legal work on plans to toll Interstate 80 and privatize the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Over a period of about a year, the law firm Ballard, Spahr, Andrews and Ingersoll has collected $2 million, according to invoices obtained by yardbird.com. Rendell decided that the law firm where he worked as a partner from 2000 to 2002 was better suited to the job, rather than use the seventy lawyers on staff at the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

Rendell fundraisers became big winners in the toll road deal. Kenneth M. Jarin, co-chairman of Rendell’s re-election campaign, billed the state $24,703.15 for forty-six hours of work with Ballard Spahr. The payment was approved by Pennsylvania State Treasurer Robin L. Wiessmann, who also happens to be Jarin’s wife.

Pennsylvanians, as someone who lives near the City of Brotherly love, let you me give you some brotherly advice.  Never, ever, under any circumstances, and I don’t care how much you like the guy, elect someone from the Philadelphia political machine to a state wide office.  Just say no!  Don’t do it!  Do the Dew instead, for all I care, but Philadelphia politics is dirty and corrupt, and we don’t need it soiling the rest of our fair state.

Someone Needs to Get This to Rendell

Toll roads apparently divert traffic and increase accidents.

The researchers analyzed decades of data from the Ohio Turnpike and nearby alternate routes in Ohio, comparing both to national data to determine the effects the toll rates had on nearby free roads. Ohio raised toll rates in the 1990s and subsequently lowered them, allowing an easier calculation of the effect of different rate levels. The study showed that as the Turnpike toll increased, truck traffic increased on alternate, free routes as truckers balanced the monetary savings with the cost of the extra time needed to take an indirect route.

I doubt Rendell will care.  The sections of Pennsylvania that I-80 goes through are the parts that didn’t vote for him.  If their costs go up, so what?  As long as everyone else can keep paying more for Philadelphia dysfunctional mass transit system, I’m sure that’s fine by him.

I Guess He’s Alive

Apparently Senator Casey and Senator Specter are taking separate positions on I-80 tolls in Pennsylvania.  I think Center Daily is on drugs, because their positions sound the same to me:

But U.S. Sens. Arlen Specter and Robert Casey, in separate Ag Progress Days news conferences, took divergent stances.

Casey said he supports the position of Rendell, who signed Act 44, the state transportation funding bill, into law. The law calls for up to 10 tolling stations along the 311 miles of I-80, to be planned and managed by the state Turnpike Commission.

Of the Peterson amendment, Casey said: “I don’t think that’s a good idea — we need all the revenue we can get. … I don’t think it (the amendment) will carry the day in the Senate.”

Specter took a hands-off position, saying 511 of the 535 U.S. House and Senate members are from other states and alluding to a proper balance of federal and state authority.

“I-80 tolling has to be decided by the state government,” Specter said. “This is a Pennsylvania issue. You don’t want all the decisions coming out of Washington, D.C.”

The real news here is that Senator Casey is, in fact, alive, and speaking to the media. Seriously, I barely even know that Bob Casey exists, and I have a lot of Pennsylvania political issues and federal issues Google alerted. Arlen Specter may be a nut, but at least I know he’s there.

I’m not one to want my Senators to do anything for me really. But I at least like to know they are alive and have opinions.

Congressman Peterson’s Editorial

Go check out Congressman John Peterson’s editorial in CenterDaily, in regards to I-80 tolls.

Tolling of I-80 has little to do with solving Pennsylvania’s transportation and infrastructure problems. It has a lot to do with paying off debt and fixing problems that should have been addressed years ago.

Until, the governor and our leaders in Harrisburg find the courage and political will to take on the likes of Philadelphia’s Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority and the Turnpike Commission and start managing our transportation system properly, they will be tolling every highway in Pennsylvania.

I agree here.  I’m not in favor of continually dumping money into SEPTA.  SEPTA has to reform itself, and at least develop a modicum of efficiency and accountability, before I’m going to agree to dump massive amounts of state dollars into the system, no questions asked.

“Guilty of the worst kind of political posturing”

So says The Allentown Morning Call, in regards to Rep English and Peterson’s efforts to prevent tolling on I-80.   Political posturing?  I can’t help but notice that I-80 runs mostly through counties that didn’t vote all that heavily for Ed Rendell or the Democrats.

Ed Comes out Swinging

Ed Rendell isn’t happy he’s getting screwed on putting toll booths every 30 miles along I-80.

Mr. Rendell said he “was shocked and disappointed” to learn of the congressional action, which is not yet final. He will urge Democrats in Congress to remove the ban on federal funds for I-80, but he said that may not happen until October.

Meanwhile, he added, “we can’t afford to wait” to find a way to generate nearly $1 billion a year in new funding for fixing roads and bridges and aiding deficit-ridden mass transit agencies, including the Port Authority of Allegheny County.

Ed can’t wait to get his hands on more of your money!  But wait, he has a plan B:

Within 30 days he plans to ask private companies to offer bids on how much they would pay to run the Pennsylvania Turnpike for up to 99 years. He thinks such a lease could generate up to $1.7 billion a year for 10 years — considerably more than would be obtained under House Bill 1590.

Lawmakers have resisted the turnpike leasing plan in the past.  I may actually not be opposed to it if someone can show me a good plan, and tell me how we’re going to get tolls, which generate 400 million a year in profit now, to generate 1.7 billion a year in profit, without massive toll increases.   I am not as concerned as our legislators about foreigners in the toll booths.   Foreigners work cheap!   You don’t have to speak English well to calculate change!

Either way, this was a great move by the Pennsylvania GOP.  Rendell burned a lot of political capital with that furlough of state workers, and it looks like they inked the deal to end the standoff, knowing full well they could block it at the federal level.   Normally I’d call this kind of stuff sleazy, but furloughing state workers to get your way is pretty sleazy too.

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