Truckers Push Back Against PennDOT's Plan To Toll Bridges

A plan to add tolls to nine bridges across Pennsylvania isn't sitting well with some people, including truck drivers; KDKA's Andy Sheehan reports.

Video Transcript

- A plan to add some tolls to some Pennsylvania bridges isn't sitting well with a lot of people, and that includes those who drive across those bridges on a daily basis. We're talking about truck drivers and as Andy Sheehan reports, they're pushing back against the proposal. This is New at 6:30.

ANDY SHEEHAN: The idea of tolling I-79 has been going over like a lead balloon, especially among interstate truckers who say they'd be on the hook for the lion's share of those tolls.

TED MEBANE: I live in North Carolina, in Durham, but I'm never home. That's my home.

ANDY SHEEHAN: As an interstate trucker, Ted Mebane's home is his rig, which can often be found traveling up and down I-79. But if the state begins tolling the roadway, Ted says his GPS will find him ways to circumvent it.

TED MEBANE: I would hate to have to pay more just to drive down this road. I would probably find another route.

- There's only so much money and that can come out of anybody's pocket.

ANDY SHEEHAN: Truckers are incensed at a PennDOT plan to toll 79 as a way to close the funding gap. Money to replace and widen this bridge, as well as making the roadway three lanes in each direction between Bridgeville and Southpointe.

REBECCA OYLER: Those truckers are right to point out that, you know, truckers currently pay about 40% of the transportation costs and taxes in Pennsylvania, despite the fact that they only drive about 9% of the miles.

ANDY SHEEHAN: Cars would likely pay $1 or two, but trucks could pay as much as $10 for a single pass. And the Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association says the industry is already shouldering too much highway funding as is.

ALEXIS CAMPBELL: We definitely understand the concern that the trucking industry has presented.

ANDY SHEEHAN: PennDOT says it's in a bind. Says the project is necessary, but gas revenues have dropped off steeply under COVID. Describes the tolls as a kind of user fee for 79 that will benefit people who travel it.

ALEXIS CAMPBELL: We've got to make sure that we have a safe and reliable transportation network that people can travel on, trucks, cars everybody. And so we've got to-- we've got to look at new ways to fund it.

ANDY SHEEHAN: But the trucking industry says there must be a better way.

REBECCA OYLER: So we would urge a more fair and equitable approach to funding transportation infrastructure and one that doesn't disproportionately impact or target a specific industry.

ANDY SHEEHAN: Now, PennDOT stresses this won't happen this year or next, but 2023 at the earliest. And it'll be subject to public input and public hearings where they'll likely get an earful from truckers and citizens alike. Reporting on I-79 in Bridgeville, Andy Sheehan, KDKA News.