Ever since the opening of I-80 in 1970, Tolling I-80 has been a popular, yet controversial, topic in Pennsylvania.
As of late, Tolling I-80 has been a pressing issue with our local economy, again. Lets talk about what Tolling I-80 would do to our local economy. Obviously with the closing of Owens-Illinois and Sealy the economy in Clarion County is not as great as we would like to see it. We still have to look at our top employers in Clarion County; Colony, Commodore, Fiber Board Plant, Clarion Bathware, Smuckers, Kraus-Source. If Interstate 80 was tolled these companies would struggle to keep their prices down. Shipping costs would go up, it would cost these companies hundreds of thousands a year just to be able to use the interstate. There are some companies, local and national, that would try to avoid the interstate at all costs to save money. State Route 322 would be a wreck. During Pennsylvania's bitter winter months Roads, like Riverhill, would be backed up because Trucks would not be able to get up it, or would wreck around the turns. For those of you who live in, or around, Clarion you already know that on a Friday afternoon it is a mess to get through, imagine it with 50 semi's in the mix.
Obviously the Interstate is a vital artery for Clarion's local economy. So what/who maintains the road? The Pennsylvania Toll Authority maintains the toll roads. Governor Rendell is trying to combine Pennsylvania Depart of Transportation(PennDot) with the Pennsylvania Toll Authority. As of the 2008-09 budget the state has allocated close to One Billion($1,000,000,000) dollars to divvy out over the next 10 years. Transportation is a group of it owns. It covers Road maintenance (re-paving, repairing, guard rail maintenance) and bridge maintenance. That does not include Winter Snow Maintenance.
In 2005 a study was issued by Penndot to investigate the feasibility of implementing a toll road. It was found that it would cost well over $650 million dollars and would take several years. Tolls could be charged across I-80 but it would take decades to break even and pay off the debt.
So, where does the money go after the state 'breaks even?' Governor Ed Rendell has said with the extra money he'd like to fund public transportation. What does that mean? A quick look online for the definition of Public Transportation is this: Public transport (also public transportation, public transit, or mass transit) is a shared passenger transportation service which are available for use by the general public, as distinct from modes such as Taxicab, Carpooling which are not shared by strangers without private arrangement.
So, now we know that he wants to toll the interstate to give people that don't have a vehicle to get from point A to point B. What benefit does that give Clarion County? ...none! In fact, as I said earlier, it would hurt our local economy. Not even local economy, how about Jefferson County, Venango County, Clearfied County. All of these counties that has businesses that rely on the Interstate for their mode of transport would be hurt.