PennDOT gets approval on plan to add tolls to bridges

PennDOT

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) is considering a plan to add tolls to several of the state’s bridges as a means of funding infrastructure repairs.

On November 12, the Pennsylvania’s Public Private Transportation Partnership (P3) Board approved the “Major Bridge P3” program that will allow PennDOT to partner with companies in the private sector “to accelerate critical work on major bridges across the state through the consideration of user fees [tolls].”

The tolls would be placed on five to 10 major bridges, but it isn’t yet clear which bridges would be tolled.

PennDOT points to declining revenue from fuel taxes due to the pandemic as a reason for implementing tolls on bridges: “Seventy-four percent of highway and bridge funding is generated through gas taxes, but fuel consumption has been progressively decreasing. The initiative will aim to provide travelers, residents, and businesses with high-quality transportation infrastructure by studying and implementing alternative funding solutions that could address near- and long-term highway and bridge needs.”

The Major Bride P3 program will “leverage private-sector innovation to address complex projects and to help ensure the longevity of infrastructure investments.”

PennDOT says that the Major Bridge P3 program will help them to achieve the following goals:

  • Accelerate the renewal of major bridges to ensure public safety;
  • Avoid time and financial impacts of travel diversion resulting from bridge restrictions and closures due to bridge condition;
  • Help offset gas tax revenue losses, as identified by the state Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC) and exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic; 
  • Ensure users (including out-of-state traffic) contribute fairly to the replacement or rehabilitation of the bridges based on usage; and
  • Create a sustainable funding model for the state’s major bridges.

Pennsylvania Turnpike drivers will also be dealing with an uptick in tolls when the rate increases by 6% on January 3, 2021.