Pittsburgh-area towns sue to block tolling on I-79 bridges

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FILE – In this Nov. 6, 2020 file photo shown is a general view of the Pennsylvania Judicial Center, home to the Commonwealth Court in Harrisburg, Pa. Pennsylvania voters will pick four new members of the statewide appeals courts this fall, including the contest to fill a spot on the state Supreme Court open because a veteran justice will soon reach 75, the state’s mandatory judicial retirement age. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Three Pittsburgh-area municipalities sued Friday to block Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration from adding tolls to an Interstate 79 bridge, saying the administration violated procedures in getting to the advanced stage of considering the idea.

The lawsuit in Commonwealth Court was filed about a year after the Public-Private Transportation Partnership Board gave the state Department of Transportation the authority to go ahead with tolling to finance the replacement of major interstate bridges.

But South Fayette Township, Bridgeville Borough and Collier Township say the board voted before the department had properly identified and analyzed specific bridges, and without the appropriate opportunity for public comment.

A PennDOT spokesperson said Friday the agency hadn’t received the lawsuit.

PennDOT in February named nine bridges, including I-79′s bridge over State Route 50 in Allegheny County, that need upgrades and that it would consider for tolling to help generate the cash. Critics say tolls will deal a heavy blow to the area’s economy, although PennDOT contends that the bridge work will generate jobs and inject money into local economies.

Tolling would be electronic and collected through E-ZPass or license-plate billing, PennDOT said.

In September, three firms were invited to submit proposals to PennDOT to administer the bridge-tolling initiative, PennDOT said. All nine are still considered candidates for tolling, with environmental studies and public outreach underway, PennDOT said.

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