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Today, PennDOT must divert funding away from regional projects across the state to fund critical interstate and bridge needs. The Major Bridge P3 Initiative will allow critical bridges to pay for themselves through tolls, keeping funds available for other regional projects to also move forward. Bridge tolling is being considered as a solution in part because collecting a toll to pay for the replacement or rehabilitation of a bridge or highway has proven to be a successful funding strategy throughout the country. Today the United States has 346 toll facilities and they generated over $22 billion in revenue in 2019. One of the benefits is that revenue is collected from the people who use those facilities and benefit from them. Major bridges are quite costly to construct, operate and maintain. Securing a dedicated funding stream for these long-term costs ensures the bridge will continue to be maintained in a state of good repair.
In November, PennDOT launched Pathways, a program to help identify a path to secure reliable, future-focused funding solutions for the state's transportation system. An alternative funding Planning and Environmental Linkages (PEL) study began at the same time and is underway to identify near- and long-term funding options and establish a methodology for their evaluation. So far, bridge tolling appears to be a feasible near-term funding alternative. To further this alternative, PennDOT has created the first initiative of the PennDOT Pathways Program: The Major Bridge P3 Initiative. This initiative would further explore the feasibility of bridge tolling in parallel with the PEL. The Major Bridge P3 Initiative is designed to raise revenue through tolling to address the state's growing backlog of replacement and rehabilitation needs for major bridges that are approaching the end of their useful lives. At the end of a bridge's useful life, substantial repairs and emergency lane closures become more frequent.
PennDOT is considering
nine candidate bridges across the state of Pennsylvania for tolling through the Major Bridge P3 Initiative. These candidate bridges are being considered because they meet the following criteria:
- Located on the interstate or expressway
- Structures of significance based on size, location and cost to replace or rehabilitate
- Structural conditions that warrant timely attention to enhance safety and avoid disruption and community impacts if closure or weight restrictions were imposed
- Geographic balance across the state
- Can begin construction in two to four years for near-term benefit
- The ability for the project to be financially viable with a reasonable toll rate
For each of the bridges, we are currently in the evaluation and risk assessment screening stage where we are evaluating the economic viability and any potential localized impacts. Each bridge will advance on its independent schedule moving forward.
Revenue from the tolls would be used to fund the capital cost of construction, operations, and maintenance activities of the bridge over approximately 30 years, as well as costs associated with the collection of tolls and other administrative costs of the program.
In the future, if more revenue is collected than is needed for construction, maintenance, and operations of the facility from which it is collected, this additional revenue would be used on other transportation projects within the Planning Region or PennDOT District in which they are generated.
In accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) public outreach will be conducted for each of the specific bridges being considered for bridge tolling. This outreach will include soliciting feedback on challenges that the public sees and potential solutions.
Special emphasis will be placed on identifying and evaluating economic impacts to under-served populations, as well as direct and indirect impacts as a result of potential diversions from tolls.
Environmental studies will be used to identify and evaluate potential mitigation measures, that could be implemented to offset adverse effects where appropriate.
Although each project's timeline differs, stakeholders and the public will be engaged as these studies are developed. This will include engaging stakeholders and the public in the evaluation of potential tolling impacts on low-income and minority populations as well as the potential impacts of traffic diversion (for those avoiding the tolls) on local communities. To stay up to date on each bridge project and find out how and when you can provide your input , please visit the project webpages.
For each project, PennDOT will conduct a Route Diversion Analysis that identifies and evaluates potential alternative routes drivers may take to avoid a toll. This includes the identification and analysis of:
- Potential diversion routes;
- Current conditions of potential diversion routes;
- Historical crash data;
- Current and future traffic forecast; and
- Alternative modes of transportation.
These studies will be used to identify and evaluate potential mitigation measures. Successful mitigation strategies used by other states as a result of tolls include, but are not limited to: commuter discount programs, low-income community discounts, and free or discounted E-ZPass tags. Stakeholders and the public will have the opportunity to provide input on these potential diversion routes through individual project engagement. To stay up to date on each project and find out how and when you can provide your input and learn more, please visit the project webpages.
There are many benefits of using bridge tolling to fund major bridge replacement or rehabilitation including:
- Unlike a flat tax, only those using the bridge will pay for it, including out-of-state travelers.
- Bridge tolling provides a dedicated source of funding for the bridge. The funds received from the toll would go back to the bridge where the toll is collected to pay for the construction, maintenance, and operation of that bridge.
- Bridge tolling can provide the funds to repair or replace costly bridges without using PennDOT's current funding, which in turn allows those funds to be used for other roadway maintenance, operations, and improvements in the region.
- Bridge tolling leverages technology, systems, and legal authorization that is already in place, supporting faster implementation.
Because these bridges are costly and in need of repair, we must make them a priority. However, if we continue to use funds from our Statewide Transportation Improvement Program, other regional projects won't get done, causing long term challenges to our state's transportation system.
Implementation will begin with the installation of tolling equipment over the roadway to record tolls electronically without slowing down traffic. Tolls will be collected through E-ZPass or license plates using the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission's existing systems, with revenue being sent to PennDOT. PennDOT will use the revenue to pay for the bridge and related maintenance and operational costs.
Yes. PennDOT is authorized to toll bridges under both federal regulation (23 USC 129) and state law (Act 88 of 2012 – the P3 law). In November 2020, PennDOT received unanimous approval from the P3 Board to implement tolls on major bridges throughout the state through the Major Bridge P3 Initiative.
The Major Bridge P3 Initiative is a key element in the PennDOT Pathways Program to find alternative ways to fund our transportation system long-term, and additional bridges may be considered for the program in the future.