LEGISLATURE REACHES COMPROMISE TO END BRIDGE TOLLING
The State Legislature has passed a bill led by Sen. Wayne Langerholc, Jr. (R-35), chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, and co-sponsored by Senator John Gordner to stop the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) from imposing new tolls on existing bridges with a Public-Private Transportation Partnership (P3).
“Bipartisan compromise was reached on my Senate Bill 382 to save over 550,000 daily motorists from paying a new toll on major bridges that drive local economies,” said Langerholc. “As elected leaders, our duty to this Commonwealth will require tremendous action to preserve our freeways for future generations.”
Langerholc was appointed chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee in January 2021, and the committee’s first public hearing was on PennDOT’s P3 bridge tolling initiative. In February 2021, Langerholc introduced Senate Bill 382 to reform the P3 statute and end PennDOT’s P3 bridge tolling initiative. Following the Senate’s passage of the bill in April 2021, Langerholc unveiled the DRIVE SMART Act in June 2021 to reform and invest in the Commonwealth’s transportation system. The House of Representatives passed Senate Bill 382 in November 2021 and returned it to the Senate for concurrence.
Senate Bill 382, as amended, is agreed-to with Gov. Wolf, who previously intended to veto the bill. Following extensive negotiations, this legislation now includes the following:
- Increases transparency by requiring PennDOT to publish a detailed analysis and requiring PennDOT to distribute a copy of the P3 Board’s resolution.
- Incorporates public comments by creating a new 30-day public comment period prior to the P3 Board’s voting meeting.
- Creates a checks-and-balance by reducing the scope of PennDOT’s power to optional user fees for new infrastructure and ensuring the General Assembly has more time to assess any transportation projects passed by the P3 Board.
- Rescinds the PennDOT Pathways Major Bridge P3 Initiative and limits the scope to the nine candidate bridges (instead of any major bridge in the State) without user fees.
- Saves taxpayer dollars by allowing PennDOT to preserve the preliminary designs and engineering plans for the nine candidate bridges.
“I had serious concerns with PennDOT’s authority to essentially tax and appropriate funds without additional oversight from the General Assembly,” said Langerholc. “At a time when the price of gas is hitting historic records under the Biden Administration, we had to stop PennDOT from adding more costs on Pennsylvania’s hardworking families.”
The compromise to the bill was reached following the Commonwealth Court’s two rulings against PennDOT’s oppressive overreach. The last order issued by the Commonwealth Court on June 30, 2022, voided the entire Major Bridge P3 Initiative.