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I-Team: Bridge toll controversy and reactions it draws

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WHITE HAVEN, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — A PennDOT proposal to put tolls on nine bridges across the state, including several in our area, including several in our region, is stirring up controversy as opposition to the plan intensifies.

One of the nine bridges are located on Interstate 80 near White Haven. PennDOT says it needs the money from the tolls to help maintain bridges like this, but opponents are saying hold the brakes.

“The tolls aren’t a bad idea as long as the money goes to the right spot,” said John Klinger, Drums.

John Klinger owns several furniture stores in our region. His trucks are always on the road.

“We see a lot of tolls. We don’t know where the money is going. Yes, the bridges need to be fixed. Yes, the roads need to be fixed. I’m not disagreeing with it, but we need to know they are being fixed.”

PennDOT unveiled a plan last month to place tolls, between $1 and $2 on nine, bridges across the state to raise between $1.6 and $2.2 billion dollars to repair those same bridges.

It’s part of a public-private partnership, known as P-3, approved by state lawmakers in 2012, to help raise funds for bridge and highways repairs. But some lawmakers say the tolling proposal goes too far. Senate Bill 382 would slow, if not stop, the proposal.

“From our perspective it’s important to put the brakes on the plan to create this new process procedure that created better transparency and greater public input,” said Senator Lisa Baker, (R) 20th District.

Eyewitness News asked Sen. Baker about why some lawmakers are now against the P-3 process when they had approved it back in 2012.

“Well, I think when this legislative authority allowed for public-private partnerships was put forward eight to nine years ago no one envisioned the department coming forward with such a significant toll plan with little or no public input, with little or no conversation with the business community and others.”

The Pennsylvania Bus Association sent a letter to the Secretary of PennDOT which reads in part:

“As the motor coach, tour and travel industries are struggling to remain in business, the imposition of tolls once we emerge from this pandemic may be the death blow to our industry.”

Eyewitness News recently spoke with Penndot Press Secretary Alexis Campbell about Senate Bill 382.

“Yeah, if this legislation being considered right now were to pass not only would it affect that particular initiative it workdays really kind of blow up our public private partnership that is really robust and does a lot of things. It allows us flexibility to get projects done that we otherwise wouldn’t. We have major concerns with that bill,” said Campbell.

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