Highway construction firms oppose PennDOT’s bridge toll plan

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Shown is Interstate-95′s mile-long double-decked Girard Point Bridge in Philadelphia, Wednesday, March 24, 2021. PennDOT named several bridges including the Girard Point Bridge that it said it is considering tolling to pay for the reconstruction. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A prominent highway construction trade association on Wednesday came out against a state plan to toll up to nine major bridges around Pennsylvania in need of repairs as lawmakers move to block the plan, although Gov. Tom Wolf’s top transportation official disputed the trade association’s criticisms.

The Associated Pennsylvania Constructors generally supports tolling to underwrite transportation projects, but the organization’s executive vice president, Robert Latham, told the House Transportation Committee that the cost of private financing would drive up project costs.

Latham also said relying on tolling to cover construction costs is risky.

However, Transportation Secretary Yassmin Gramian said she expects the projects to be financed with lower-cost municipal bonds under a federal program. In addition, financing the reconstruction projects isn’t as risky as financing a new bridge project because studies show that the bridges have stable daily traffic flows.

The Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association also oppose the proposed tolls.

Meanwhile, the Senate is advancing legislation to require the Legislature’s approval of any proposed transportation project with a user fee.

Gramian has said the tolls are necessary because PennDOT has less than half the cash it needs to keep Pennsylvania’s highways and bridges in good condition and ease major traffic bottlenecks. Borrowing the money against existing revenue would take money away from other construction projects, she has said.

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