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Court shuts down Bridge Tolling Plan

Court shuts down Bridge Tolling Plan

The Commonwealth Court ruled on Thursday that PennDOT’s P3 initiative to toll nine bridges violated Act 88 and has blocked the plan moving forward.

The court ruled in favor of the petitioners South Fayette Township, Bridgeville Borough and Collier Township in a 36-page opinion issued today. The ruling, penned by Judge Ellen Ceisler, states that the Major Bridge P3 Initiative is void ab initio (from the beginning).

Judge Ceisler noted that it was “clear that the (P3) Board had no specific bridges in mind when it approved the initiative in November 2020. There is no indication that the Board engaged in any meaningful consultation with “persons affected” by the Initiative, as Act 88 requires.” The opinion went on to state that “Instead, DOT purported to do so afterward once specific bridges were announced. This is inconsistent with Act 88’s procedural framework, both as shown by the statute’s text and as understood by the Board in its P3 Manual.”

The opinion pointed out that the board approved a “multi-billion dollar transportation project based on what was essentially a four-page powerpoint recommendation from DOT that failed to delineate which, or how many, pieces of public infrastructure the Initiative would affect.”

The opinion also noted the amicus brief filed by the Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association in a footnote that stated: “Berks County, along with several municipalities in Berks County, and the Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association filed amicus curiae briefs, in which they raised concerns with the Initiative’s approval process, and the anticipated harm caused by the implementation of the Initiative.”

Judge Ceisler also issued an injunction in May in a similar case in Cumberland County, halting the projects from moving forward. Now, she has ruled that PennDOT and the P3 Board have violated the law.

“PMTA is grateful to Commonwealth Court for recognizing the necessity to put a halt to all nine bridge tolling projects across the state because it is clear from her opinion that PennDOT violated the P3 law from the beginning,” PMTA President and CEO Rebecca Oyler said. “From the day the initiative was announced in November 2020, PMTA has pointed out that the agency failed to follow basic steps not only required by law, but also expected of any government action – communicate before acting.

“Had they communicated with the Pennsylvania trucking industry, they would have heard that the consequences of tolling would be catastrophic. With diesel prices already at record levels, now is the worst possible time to add $5000+ per truck per year for trucking companies and other small businesses. These are costs that are ultimately passed on to consumers.”

“Today is a good day for the trucking industry and for the driving public in Pennsylvania.”

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