I-80 toll proposal is discriminatory

Plan adds toll boothsCDT
Pennsylvania Democrats are proposing adding toll plazas to Interstate 80 near the borders with New Jersey and Ohio. Two plazas further into the commonwealth will be discussed.

The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, reformed to subject it to more oversight, would be responsible for collecting the I-80 tolls, and motorists who live within 30 miles of the toll stations would get a free pass, Conklin said.

Some thoughts on this proposal:

  • I don’t know of any other situation in the U.S. where your toll is based on whether your house is within a radius to the toll plaza. That strikes me as quite unfair, perhaps even illegal.
  • Does the 30 mile radius include residents of New Jersey and Ohio?
  • What if you work or attend college in Pennsylvania and thus have a Pennsylvania address, do you get exempted too?
  • There is already a toll just inside of Pennsylvania on I-80 for the Delaware Water Gap bridge. That one-way toll pays for the river crossing that is run by the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission. Another toll will add to the congestion.

This idea if going to get a lot of traction because many Pennsylvanians resent out of state people, especially those from New Jersey. A widely held misconception is that the Delaware Water Gap toll is operated by the State of New Jersey, even though it is in Pennsylvania and administered by DRJTBC. Also, the complaint “they drive on our roads and wear them out without paying for them” is even more flawed. Since interstate highways are funded by a national gasoline tax, all motorists are paying for them whether they are in Scranton or San Diego. State and local taxes make up the remaining 10% necessary for the state highway fund. Realistically anybody who drives through any significant amount of Pennsylvania is probably going to need to buy gas during the trip. When someone does they contribute 100% to the Pennsylvania highway fund since they are paying local and state taxes too. Those facts are conveniently ignored, because it is much more easy to be prejudiced.

The biggest problem though is that I-80 is a public road, 90% of which was built with federal gas tax money. If Pennsylvania wants to toll it, they should have to reimburse the highway trust fund for all the money spent on I-80 from 1956 to present.

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