Wolf wants to re-examine Pa. transportation funding, reduce turnpike tolls

A toll worker gives a motorist a thumbs-up after waving a car past the ticket booth in Carlisle, Pa. (Carolyn Kaster/AP Photo)

A toll worker gives a motorist a thumbs-up after waving a car past the ticket booth in Carlisle, Pa. (Carolyn Kaster/AP Photo)

Gov. Tom Wolf said this week that he wants to change the way Pennsylvania pays for transportation

There appears to be a growing consensus among lawmakers that the funding scheme isn’t working — particularly when it comes to the heavily indebted turnpike system.

The turnpike has raised its tolls every year since 2009; come January, the cost will rise another 6 percent, to $1.38 on average for E-ZPass users. The tradition is expected to continue for decades.

It’s long been a sore spot. Earlier this year, a group of truckers sued the turnpike and state over the tolls. And the auditor general is reviewing turnpike finances for the second time in two years.

In an interview with KDKA radio, Wolf also expressed displeasure. People are paying too much to use the turnpike, he said, and the costs are driving business away.

The toll hikes date back to 2007, when the state passed Act 44. It required the Turnpike Commission to make large annual payments to the state — not just for its own operating costs, but for statewide road, bridge, and public transportation projects. To date, it has paid $6.1 billion.

A follow-up act passed several years ago will reduce the annual payments in 2022. But Wolf said that’s still unsustainable.

He said he believes there’s bipartisan support for a new system, though didn’t specify what he would prefer.

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