PENNSYLVANIA, USA — PennDOT is considering tolling nine Pennsylvania bridges to help pay for repairs. One of the nine bridges that could see tolls is in South Central PA. However, the proposal is getting mixed reaction.
Drivers could potentially have to pay up to a two dollar toll in each direction along the John Harris Memorial Bridge. Monday, is the last day PennDOT is accepting online feedback from the public on the proposal.
Pennsylvania has the third largest number of state maintained bridges in the nation, according to PennDOT. With 2,500 of them classified in poor condition, which is about 10%. This puts the commonwealth at number two in the country for the numbers of bridges in poor condition.
Officials with PennDOT said the John Harris Memorial Bridge is in dire need of repairs as it carries over 125,000 cars on a daily basis – and was built over 60 years ago. A challenge they are facing is an 8.1 billion dollar funding gap.
Currently, PennDOT is conducting a diversion study which has been a concern for drivers not wanting to pay tolls. They are hoping this study will help them see how this could impact traffic on alternate routes.
As of Friday, PennDOT received 858 comments on the tolling proposal. 72% were negative, 25% neutral, and 3% were positive.
According to PennDOT, they need a new funding strategy because three quarters of their revenue comes from federal and state gas taxes. There are a few things to consider through -- as cars become more fuel efficient gas sales are down. Governor Tom Wolf also wants to phase out PA's gas tax, which is among the highest in the nation. If this happens, the commonwealth will have to come up with new ways to contribute to funding.
The project, which would widen the bridge to five lanes in each direction -- is expected to cost between 500 and 650 million dollars.
PennDOT is taking public comments on the proposal through March 29 on their website. Comments may be submitted through a comment form, via email to i83SouthBridge@pa.gov, by leaving a message on PennDOT's hotline at 717-743-1005, or by sending a letter to I-83 South Bridge Project, Attn: Derek Mitch, 2140 Herr Street, Harrisburg, PA 17103.