Pennsylvania toll increase is now law

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Pennsylvania Gov. Edward Rendell on Wednesday, July 18, signed into law a bill that would add tolls to Interstate 80 and increase tolls on the state turnpike.

Turnpike tolls will increase 25 percent in 2009 and 3 percent annually after that, according to HB 1590, a $1 billion transportation spending bill that Rendell signed a day after the state Senate passed it 124-79. The House approved it 105-96 on June 27.

Tolls would be added to I-80 only if federal officials approve the move, and any I-80 tolls would be in line with turnpike tolls, said Barry Ciccocioppo, a Rendell spokesman. Cut from the bill was a plan to study tolls on I-95 as well.

The new law creates a Public Transportation Trust Fund, which will draw from sales and other taxes, lottery proceeds and turnpike revenues. Over the next 10 years, the law is expected to make $532 million available for bridge and road repairs and $414 million available for public transit.

“Despite our record investments in highways and bridges in the past four years, Pennsylvania has nearly 6,000 structurally deficient bridges – the highest number of any state – and more than 8,500 miles of roads that are in need of repair,” said Rendell, a Democrat.

Rendell earlier abandoned a plan to lease the commonwealth’s turnpike in hope of reaching a compromise with the Legislature on a new state budget. The new law calls for a “public-public” partnership between the state transportation department and the turnpike authority, an apparent reference to the public-private partnership – that is, lease arrangement – that Rendell proposed in a February budget address.