For the most part, we all want to drive on well maintained roads that get us to our destination as efficiently and safely as possible. Take me, for example. Every Monday through Friday I drive from my home in Lebanon to work in Harrisburg. I certainly want to complete that drive safely, but I also like to do so in the shortest time possible. I have many alternative routes available, but I realized about seven years ago that the quickest route to work for me is using the Pennsylvania Turnpike from the Lebanon/Lancaster interchange to the Harrisburg East interchange. Generally, this cuts my trip down by about fifteen minutes each way. That may not seem like a lot per day, but over the course of one year, that saves me 130 hours. It also costs me. As you know, our regular vehicle registration fee does not cover us on the Turnpike. When I first began using the Turnpike daily in 2003, it cost me $.90 each way. Today, it costs me $1.65 each way. Yes, if I use the Turnpike five days per week both ways to work, that’s an extra $858 per year in highway fees. When I was paying $.90 per use, the cost did not seem like that much. As it has continued to increase, I have gotten a bit more conservative, typically using the Turnpike only one way per day, thus keeping my costs for this at about the same level it was in 2003.
Like me, many people and companies have found ways to save on, or at least stabilize, transportation costs. Examples include telecommuting, working four ten hour days instead of five eight-hour days, car pooling, taking public transportation, using vehicles with higher fuel efficiency, practicing more fuel efficient driving habits, etc. All of these individual cost savings effect the money available to improve our transportation infrastructure.
In what was called an effort to assist in funding transportation infrastructure efforts, in 2007, Act 44, which would allow the tolling of other interstate highways (if approved by the United States Department of Transportation), was passed and signed into law. Act 44 required the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission and PennDOT to enter into a lease agreement prior to October 15, 2007, in which the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission would lease Interstate 80 (“I-80”) from PennDOT. That lease was entered into October 14, 2007, and required the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission to make annual base payments and annual additional payments to PennDOT even though the United States Department of Transportation had not approved the conversion of I-80 to a toll road. Since the enactment of Act 44, two applications for the conversion of I-80 to a toll road were sent to the United States Department of Transportation for approval. Both were rejected.
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