WHITE HAVEN, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU)— Controversy and questions continue regarding a PennDOT plan to place tolls on nine interstate bridges across the State; several of those bridges are in Northeastern Pennsylvania.

Residents of several communities in Luzerne County say if the tolling plan moves forward, it would jeopardize public safety and impact their quality of life. 

Eyewitness News visited one of the bridges on Interstate 80 that would be tolled near the White Haven exit of Interstate 80 near the Luzerne-Carbon County line.

The concern residents and officials have are that during and after construction on these bridges traffic, namely truck traffic will detour through White Haven and East Side Borough. Officials here say it’s a tragedy in the making. 

“Safety is my main concern,” said Louis Esa, President of the East Side Borough Council.

He also lives along Route 940, which is used as a detour when problems occur on nearby Interstate 80.

“We have children that play. If you start getting all this traffic through here every time, there’s been a problem with the bridges, we couldn’t even get out of our driveways along Route 940 here the traffic was so heavy,” explained Esa.

PennDOT unveiled the Interstate Bridge Tolling Plan last year saying the tolls were needed to fund an $8.1BIL funding gap for bridge repairs and replacement.  

Commonwealth Court put the plan on hold for now after several communities filed a lawsuit arguing that PennDOT did not have the legal authority to implement the plan.

“Our main concerns are the road is deteriorated our drainage pipes are already crushed probably 40 to 50 years older. We don’t have the money as a small Borough to do all those repairs to this road,” Esa told Eyewitness News.

White Haven residents know all too well what heavy traffic can do. You can see grinding marks on Route 940 where trucks have bottomed out. White Haven Police Chief Tom Szoke tells Eyewitness News.

“It’s going to just devastate our police force because we are going to constantly have a police officer in that area which means all the other communities we protected Penn Lake, Dennison Township, Foster Township are going to see a major reduction in patrols.”

State Senator John Yudichak says PennDOT and lawmakers must come up with a plan that addresses those safety and financial concerns 

“They are talking about 70-80 potential vehicles that would be diverted because of the toll plan to these small communities, their infrastructure can’t bear it, the communities become unsafe,” Senator Yudichak said.

Again the Interstate Bridge Toll Plan is temporarily on hold, Commonwealth Court is expected to have a hearing on whether the plan can move forward in several weeks. PennDOT officials say they welcome discussions with lawmakers to come up with alternative funding for road and bridge repairs.