Saturday, November 10, 2007

''Tolling I-80 is akin to a 'Closed for Business' sign in Pennsylvania.''

Roadblock to I-80 tolls in U.S. bill is lifted

November 10, 2007

By John L. Micek, Harrisburg Bureau
The Morning Call (Pennsylvania)
Copyright 2007

Removing a major legislative road block, a joint U.S. House and Senate conference committee has stricken language from a massive transportation funding bill that would have forbidden the use of federal money to turn Interstate 80 into a toll road.

The conference committee removed the language late Thursday night, said Reps. Phil English, R-3rd, and John Peterson, R-5th, who had it successfully inserted into the bill earlier this year.

Chuck Ardo, a spokesman for Gov. Ed Rendell, said the action by the conference committee eliminates ''one of the bumps in the road toward a long-term transportation funding plan.''

In a statement, Peterson accused majority House Democrats and U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., of marching in ''lockstep'' at the behest of Gov. Ed Rendell to remove the language from the appropriations bill, one of 12 that funds the federal government.

The two legislators have claimed for months that converting I-80 into a toll road will harm local businesses and scare away the tourists and truckers who make up the bulk of the highway's users.

''Tolling I-80 is akin to a 'Closed for Business' sign in Pennsylvania,'' Peterson said in a statement.

English, meanwhile, said he hopes officials at the Federal Highway Administration will deny the state's application to turn I-80 into a toll road. State officials must secure Washington's blessing before they can move ahead to do so.

The application is still pending, Ardo said Friday. (717)783-7305

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