As expected, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission yesterday voted unanimously, 5-0, to raise tolls an average of 5.3 cents per mile for the eight classes of commercial trucks, but some lawmakers have vowed to fight the increase.
"We have to put a great deal of public pressure on the Turnpike Commission to reverse this decision," said Rep. Jeff Habay, in a prepared statement. "If they're not willing to reverse this decision, we should make it null and void." Habay staffers said he will propose legislation this week requiring the commission to seek approval from lawmakers before raising tolls. Other lawmakers said they plan to introduce their own legislative action against the new toll.
Gov. Ed Rendel supports the toll increase because of the jobs which will be created by the rebuilding and the economic value brought to the state by having an up-to-date roadway.
The new rates will take affect August 1 to allow truck carriers time to work the increase into their contracts.
Passenger car rates were raised 1.8 cents per mile.
On average, a truck traveling the length of the east-west turnpike now pays about $75. The toll would be about $100 after August 1.
Jim Runk, president of the Motor Truck Association, warned that the new toll could put smaller carriers out of business if they don’t detour around the toll road. He said the association is lobbying the Turnpike Commission to phase the increase in over several years or allow discounts for E-Z Pass users or those traveling during off-peak hours.
The new rates will raise more than $1.1 billion over ten years to replace and repair bridges, tunnels, highways and interchanges along the 470-mile highway system. One area in line for rebuilding is the oldest section of the turnpike from Carlisle to Irwin. Bridges over the Allegheny and Susquehanna rivers will be replaced and some sections in the Philadelphia area will be widened from four lanes to six, Turnpike chairman Mitchell Rubin said.