The state Department of Transportation has announced the bridges that are under consideration for its PennDOT Pathways Major Bridge Public-Private Partnership (P3) Initiative, which would fund the reconstruction or replacement of the identified bridges through tolling.
Here are the candidates, with direct links to detailed information about each proposed project:
- I-78 Lenhartsville Bridge Replacement Project (Berks County);
- I-79 Widening, Bridges and Bridgeville Interchange Reconfiguration (Allegheny County);
- I-80 Canoe Creek Bridges (Clarion County);
- I-80 Nescopeck Creek Bridges (Luzerne County);
- I-80 North Fork Bridges Project (Jefferson County);
- I-80 Over Lehigh River Bridge Project (Luzerne and Carbon counties);
- I-81 Susquehanna Project (Susquehanna County);
- I-83 South Bridge Project (Dauphin County); and
- I-95 Girard Point Bridge Improvement Project (Philadelphia County).
Districts will now begin community outreach for the candidates, with meetings already scheduled for many projects, and further study is required for approval from the U.S. Federal Highway Administration. For example, PennDOT must identify expected diversions onto secondary and local roads by drivers avoiding the toll. Identified impacts must be mitigated through toll revenues for the length of the P3, which is expected to be 30 years. Impacts on lower income communities must also be identified and mitigated.
Funds would be borrowed up front to pay for construction costs and repaid with tolls that are expected to be in the $1 to $2 range and levied electronically (through EZPass and toll-by-plate). The earliest expected implementation of the tolls would be 2023 if the candidates are viable and receive FHWA approval. Under the plan, toll revenues that exceed the costs of construction, maintenance, and mitigation would have to be used for road projects in the same PennDOT district.
PennDOT believes that current federal and state laws give it the authority to pursue tolling; however, there are legislators who strongly disagree. The plan is expected to receive vigorous debate in the General Assembly.
Decreasing gas tax revenues due to more fuel-efficient vehicles and the continued growth of electric vehicles are forcing PennDOT to comprehensively reevaluate how Pennsylvania funds its transportation system. To view the press release, click here. To view PennDOT’s presentation on Pathways and the Major Bridge P3 Initiative, click here. To read more about PennDOT’s Pathways proposal, click here.