State Rep. Mike O’Brien



O'Brien unveils bill to address Pa.'s transportation funding needs 


HARRISBURG, May 5 – State Rep. Mike O'Brien, D-Phila., and other state lawmakers today unveiled a proposal that would address Pennsylvania's transportation funding crisis.  


Special Session House Bill 2 was introduced on the heels of the opening of the legislature's Special Session on Transportation, a session convened by Gov. Ed Rendell to address the half-a-billion-dollar shortfall in the state's transportation budget for critical bridge and road repairs and the billions more needed to get mass transit systems and infrastructure maintenance back on track.


The legislation would implement a toll at the border of each of the state's 11 interstate highways. O'Brien said the measure is the fairest way to raise funds to help rebuild Pennsylvania's aging and ailing transportation infrastructure and mass transit systems.   


"Tolling one road but not another, increasing tolls on an already burdensome turnpike fee structure, increasing mass transit fares on the working poor – these are not viable options for solving Pennsylvania's transportation funding needs," O'Brien said. "We need to come up with a comprehensive solution that does not unfairly burden one segment of the population or one area of the state.


"Pennsylvania’s roadways are a regional asset, serving the mid-Atlantic, New England and Midwestern states and all of their commerce. We are simply proposing they share the burden of the upkeep," he said.


Under the bill co-authored by O'Brien, passenger vehicles would pay $1 and commercial vehicles would pay $5 when crossing a border terminal in and out of Pennsylvania. The bill would also allow for pre-purchased tolls at discounted rates.


The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation would collect toll revenues to be used for maintenance, upkeep and improvements to interstate highways and bridges, administrative costs associated with gateway tolling and mass transit needs.


O'Brien said the proposal, titled Gateway Tolling for Transportation Independence Today, is an acknowledgement that House lawmakers get it (GTTIT) when it comes to the need to address the crisis.


"Governor Rendell's address to the General Assembly laid out the dire state of transportation funding in Pennsylvania," O'Brien said. "This proposal acknowledges that we get it and we're working in earnest to offer a fair solution that will pass federal muster, unlike the federal government's rejection of the state’s application to levy tolls all along Interstate 80."


According to PennDOT, an estimated 168 million vehicles cross Pennsylvania’s borders on non-tolled interstate roads and bridges annually. O'Brien said the bill he is supporting could raise at least $300 million annually based on those estimates.