Pennsylvania Highways:  Interstate 80 (2024)

Pennsylvania Highways: Interstate 80 (1)
Keystone Shortway
Z. H. Confair Memorial Highway

The longest east-westInterstate in Pennsylvania, Interstate 80 was originally conceived asthe Turnpike's Sharon to Stroudsburg Lateral Connection prior to the Interstatelegislation being signed. The first proposed alignment was from theDelaware Water Gap to the Susquehanna River, and one map showed the terminusin Millersburg. Later, it was revised to be a parallel highway to themainline Turnpike. On June 29, 1956, when the Interstate Act was passed,all planning was moved to the Department of Highways. The first spadeof dirt to signal the beginning of construction was shoveled on March 19,1959 near Corsica. However, the first segment of what would become I-80 originally opened onDecember 16, 1953 when the 2,465-foot-long Delaware Water Gap Toll Bridge openedto traffic. That event cost ran up a bill of $6,770 for Champaign, liquor,cigars, flowers, and six models. In light of the extravagance, a bi-stateinvestigation took place in 1956 which brought a revamping of the Delaware RiverJoint Toll Bridge Commission.

The first section to see constructionwas from Exit 308 to Exit 310 in 1959. That section opened in1960, at the same time work began on the section from Exit 70 to Exit 78. In 1961,construction began from Exit 298 to Exit 308. In 1962, construction beganfrom Exit 78 to Exit 86, Exit 210 to Exit 224, and the Jackson Township line toExit 299, and that same year the section from Exit 305 to Exit 308 opened totraffic. In 1963, the sections from Exit 70 to Exit 81 and from Exit 298to Exit 308 opened to traffic, while construction began on the followingsections: Ohio state line to the Shenango River, Exit 224 to the SchoolHouse Road overpass, and Exit 242 to the Luzerne County line. In 1964, thesections from Exit 81 to Exit 86 and Exit 210 to Exit 224 opened to traffic,with the latter including the bridge spanning the SusquehannaRiver. That year construction began on numerous sections spanning thestate: Shenango River to the PA 285 overpass, Wolf Creek to the AlleghenyRiver, Exit 86 to the Stevenson Hill Road overpass, Exit 236 to Exit 242, Exit 274 to the Jackson Townshipline in Monroe County.

A ceremonial groundbreaking took place onthe morning of April 16, 1964 at the present location of the Interstate 81interchange to kick off construction of the segment between the Luzerne County lineand Exit 273. Governor William Scranton joined Secretary of Highways HenryD. Harral, US Representative Daniel J. Flood and W. J. Millyard from theCanadian consul in Philadelphia to shovel the first spade-fulls of earth.

In1965, the sections from Exit 236 to Exit 242 and Exit 293 to Exit 298 openedwhile construction began on the sections from the PA 285 overpass to Wolf Creek,the weight stations at mile marker 57 to Exit 60, Exit 111 to the Graham Townshipline, Browns Run to just east of the Boggs Township line, School House Roadoverpass to Exit 236, and Exit 273 to Exit 274. In 1966, Interstate 80 openedfrom Exit 29 to Exit 42, Exit 242 to Exit 256, and Exit 273 to Exit 293.Construction began on the sections from the Allegheny River to the weightstations at mile marker 57, Exit 60 to Exit 64, Exit 97 to Exit 101, GrahamTownship line to the Deer Creek Road overpass, east of the Boggs Township lineto Exit 161, and the White Deer Pike to Exit 210. In 1967, the sections fromExit 4 to Exit 29 which included the cloverleaf with Interstate 79, Exit 111 toExit 123, Exit 224 to Exit 236, and Exit 256 to Exit 273 opened to traffic. Inthat same year, construction began on thesections from Exit 64 to Exit 70, Deer Creek Road overpass to the GrahamTownship line, Exit 161 to Exit 173, and Exit 178 to Exit 185. In 1968, the sections from the Ohiostate line to Exit 4, Exit 42 to Exit 70, Exit 123 to Exit 133, and Exit 161 toExit 173 opened to traffic. Also,construction began on the sectionsfrom Stevenson Hill Road overpass to Exit 97 and Exit 173 to Exit 178 thatyear. In 1969, the section from Exit 133 to Exit 161 opened totraffic and construction began on the sections from Exit 101 to Exit 111 andExit 185 to White Deer Pike which signaled that Interstate 80 was eithercomplete or under construction for its journey through the Commonwealth.

Thefinal section of Interstate to be paved was near the PA 153 interchange on June24, 1970. Following a traditional ceremony, the construction workers puttheir mark on, or I should say in, Interstate 80 with Department ofTransportation and Keystone Shortway Association officials looking on. Oneworker tossed his hardhat into the air and watched it disappear into theconcrete. Transportation Secretary Victor W. Anckaitis said it was an oldcustom in the highway construction industry; however, usually workers paving thefinal section toss coins into the concrete as a symbol of "puttingtheir two cents into the job."

On September 17, 1970, the remainingsections from Exit 86 to Exit 111 and Exit 161 to Exit 210 opened to traffic,which signaled the completion of the Keystone Shortway from Ohio to New Jersey. The head of the FederalHighway Administration Frank Turner and former Administrator Bert Tallamyjoined Governor Raymond Shafer in the opening ceremonies. The governorfired a flare gun which activated an electronic sign on the Goodyear Blimp,officially opening the Milesburg interchange and the entire expressway.Pennsylvania now had two limited-access highways connecting the eastern andwestern parts of the state. Thefinal cost of construction was $324 million.

Pennsylvania Highways: Interstate 80 (2)
I-80's opening at the Milesburg Interchange.
(Federal Highway Administration)

Pennsylvania Highways: Interstate 80 (3)
Cover of the official program for the opening ceremonies.
(Allegheny College)

One of the forward thinking ideas employed onthe Interstate was the inclusion of call boxes between Milton andStroudsburg. They were spaced at half-mile intervals and 12 feet from theedge of the highway. Direct lines would connect motorists in need to oneof five Pennsylvania State Police sub-stations along the Interstate in thissection of Pennsylvania. The system first started in 1967 from Exit 212 tofour miles east of Exit 224 and during the 11 days of service, motorists made105 calls. From that point to Stroudsburg it was completed in 1968, andall of it was done in cooperation with the Bell Telephone Company ofPennsylvania and Commonwealth Telephone Company of Dallas, Pennsylvania.More than 1,100,000 feet of cable was used to connect 370 telephones.Plans were in place to expand the system across the entire PennsylvaniaInterstate System, especially in rural areas. Those ambitious plans wouldnot come to fruition as this system was shut down. The only limited accesshighways to have call boxes end-to-end today are ones operated by the Pennsylvania TurnpikeCommission. The only PennDOT-maintained roadway that had more recently wasInterstate 81 betweenmile marker 108 to158, which ironically crosses the section of I-80 encompassed in that 95 milestretch.

Pennsylvania's Name DesignationAct of 1984 designated I-80 officially as the Z. H. Confair Memorial Highway,after the state senator who had served as the President of the Keystone ShortwayAssociation.

Interstate 80 was in the news numerous times in the last year ofthe Twentieth Century. The former Representative Bud Shuster, who can't keephis hands off of other interstates, wanted to have tolls collected on I-80. The reason being that it is need of repair, and that most traffic onthe highway is from out of state so tax those who use it most. Theproposal was rejected by former Governor Ridge. Then an article in the April7, 1999 Greensburg Tribune-Review reported that the Ridge Administration had gone back to thisplan, but with him being selected as Secretary of Homeland Security and movingto Washington, this plan seems to have been axed. The idea of imposing a tollwas not a new idea, and had gone back as far as the late GovernorMilton Shapp's administration in the 1970s. The plan was resurrectedin the 1980s when the Turnpike Expansion bill was signed which led to theconstruction of PA Turnpike 60 and PA Turnpike 66, and the completion of PA Turnpike43.

Voted one of the "worst roads" by thereaders of Overdrive magazine for most of the 1990s, Interstate 80 has reboundedon the 1999 and 2000 surveys. It came in at number one under "most improvedroad" on the 2000 survey. Most of the credit goes to PennDOT for rebuildingmost of the 311 miles of the highway from the ground up.

December 28, 2001 was not a good day to be on theInterstate, as two massive accidents occurred due to treacherous conditionscaused by winter weather. The first happened late that day at Exit 185 forLoganton. At least 63 vehicles: a dozen cars and twotractor-trailers, with one carrying flammable material, exploded into flamesafter the impact. Captain Coleman McDonough of the Pennsylvania StatePolice Troop F said police estimated at least 45 cars and six tractor-trailersin the westbound lanes and about twelve in the eastbound lanes were involved.

This section of Interstate was closed,causing traffic to back up for six miles on the westbound side and three mileson the eastbound side. At least 45 people were taken to local hospitals,but police did not know if any had sustained life-threatening injuries.The cause of the accident was a sudden snowstorm that created"white-out" conditions and left highways icy. One of the peopleinvolved in the accident, Joe Czapski of Dearborn, Michigan who was driving homefrom Boston with his wife said, "We were going west when this snow squall kicked up. It was so white out, it was impossible to see." He went on to say that they were directlybehind the car that started the accident. "Suddenly this car in front of me startedswerving. Then I tried to avoid him and I got hit in theback and the side. Another car hit us into the railing. It was like a chainreaction," said wife Pat Czapski. Kristen Wells of Hartford,Connecticut described the accident as this, "It was like, ‘Boom! Boom!’ Every few seconds you could hear anothercar exploding." As cars collided with each other and the guardrails,somevehicles ended in the ravine between the two sides of thehighway. By 8 PM, all the fires had been extinguished according to KevinFanning, director of the Clinton County Emergency Management Agency. WayneHoover, Fire Chief for White Deer Township said, "I've never seen anythinglike it." White Deer units were finishing up at another accident onI-80 at mile marker 202 when the call for the Clinton County accidents came overthe radio. Fire departments from White Deer, Warrior Run, Milton, Watsontown and Lewisburg provided assistance to Clinton County firefighters. "There were twoor three cars down at the bottom of that 125-foot bank. We saw statetroopers dragging people out of them," said Hoover. He went on tosay, "I counted 15 cars and five tractor-trailers in one big neap and theywere all burning. There may have been more cars underneath."The accident claimed eight lives. The highway reopened on Saturday,December 29.

Pennsylvania Highways: Interstate 80 (6) Pennsylvania Highways: Interstate 80 (7)
Pennsylvania Highways: Interstate 80 (8) Pennsylvania Highways: Interstate 80 (9)
Various scenes of the accident. (NTV)

At least 50 vehicles were involved inanother accident late Friday afternoon near Hazleton. One person died fromthe accident caused by the same wintry conditions that caused the ClintonCounty pile-up. Several tractor-trailers were involved in the crash.Driver Tracy Collins said, "There was a whiteout, and then in like fiveminutes the truck went off the side of the road and everyone went off with it --all over the place."

Snow continued to play havoc on theInterstate in 2004. On January 6 during a heavy snowfall, not one butthree multi-vehicle accidents took place on both sides of Interstate 80 betweenExit 158 and Exit 178. The first accident occurred in both the eastboundand westbound lanes between Exit 158 and Exit 161 at 11:15 AM. It involvedapproximately 30 tractor-trailers, around 20 passenger vehicles, and resulted insix fatalities. There were still four or five vehicles, including a semi,still burning come sunrise on January 7 in the westbound lanes, and preventedinvestigators from beginning their work. Pennsylvania State Trooper DavidWhite said 17 people had been taken to Mount Nittany Medical Center and LockHaven Hospital, and one who was flown to the trauma center at AltoonaHospital. Ambulances and fire crews were brought in from four counties toattend to the injured and extinguish the fires. White added, "Theycan't get the fires out -- or they thought they had them out and they're back --so they're still blocking the eastbound lanes with emergency vehicles, and thesmoke is still billowing." The eastbound lanes opened on January 7,and the westbound lanes in the evening of January 8 after PennDOT inspected thehighway. Excavation began on Monday, January 12 along the site of theaccident. Employees of Eagle Towing and Recovery began removingcontaminated soil from the roadside.

Pennsylvania Highways: Interstate 80 (10)
Smoke billowing from the pileup as seen the day ofthe accident. (Associated Press)

Thesecond accident took place just east of the Bellefonte interchange and involvedthree tractor-trailers, one hauling a mobile home. The driver of an escortcar for the wide load, Londa Bennett, said that visibility was poor. Shesaid of conditions, "We were coming over the hill and it was just whiteout,just ice on the road. There were trucks breaking in front of us, and whenmy driver went to brake, he got hit by another truck from behind."

Thethird accident took place in the westbound lanes side between Exit 224 and Exit215. This one involved 12 tractor-trailers and several smaller vehicles.

Since the Interstate is in such aremote area of Pennsylvania, getting medical help to it can be a dauntingtask. One made critical when someone is having a heart attack. OnFebrurary 1, 2004, PennDOT announced the implementation of automated externaldefibrillators at five rest areas on I-80. The Pennsylvania Chapter of theAmerican College of Cardiology donated the five defibrillators, also referred toas "AEDs." "PennDOT is setting an excellent example forpublic access to defibrillators in the commonwealth," said Dr. Edgar J.Kenton, president of the American Heart Association's local chapter.

The idea of tolling the Shortway cameback to the surface in 2004. On March 1, Department of TransportationSecretary Allen Biehler told the state House Appropriations Committee that aseries of toll plazas could be built approximately every 30 miles along theInterstate. He also said that the feasibility study had been going on forseveral months and would take another two to complete. He said, "Weare looking at the costs and potential benefits" of toll plazas."Does the volume of traffic make sense to do this? What is the impacton the traveling public? What does it mean to the truckingindustry?" No word on how much tolls would be or where plazas wouldbe placed. PennDOT would need permission from the FHWA to charge tollssince federal money was used to build the Interstate. There is also thequestion of whether the PTC or PennDOT would be in charge of operations and maintenance.Tolls are one option for raising needed funds to pay for maintenance andpossibly widening it to six lanes in sections, especially from Interstate 81 tothe Delaware River.

A year later on March 8, 2005, Secretary Biehlertold the Senate Appropriations Committee that costs of building toll booths,maintenance facilities, and police stations would exceed $650 million and takeyears to complete. A PennDOT study stated it would be feasible to chargetolls over the long run but it would take decades to break even and pay off thedebt. Biehler said that "it wasn't a wise move to institute tolls atthis time." State Senator J. Barry Stout (D) of Washington Countysaid he was "a little shocked to see the final conclusion." Asthe minority chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, he endorsed theidea of putting ten toll booths, with a $2.50 fare at each, on the Interstatefrom Ohio to New Jersey.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007 will beremembered more for the snow and ice storm than romantic evenings for most ofeastern Pennsylvania. Even those just passing through, or attempting to,on the Interstate won't soon forget Valentine's Day 2007. As conditionsbegan to deteriorate with seven inches of snow followed by three inches of ice,several tractor-trailers began to jack-knife and others becoming stuck trying tonegotiate the Interstate. PennDOT closed it between Exit 241 and theInterstate 81 interchange on Thursday, February 15 and did not reopen I-80 until4 PM on February 17. The storm and the problems it caused forced GovernorEd Rendell to declare a statewide disaster emergency which authorized stateagencies to use all available resources and personnel to assist in relief.It took 150 employees with 141 pieces of equipment to clear the ice and snow offI-78, I-80, and I-81.

Pennsylvania Highways: Interstate 80 (11)
Eastbound traffic at a stand-still in Luzerne and Columbia Counties.

The on-again/off-again tale of tollingInterstate 80 seems to be back on again in 2007. After a budget battlewhich saw the state government grind to a halt in July. With passage ofAct 44, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission would take over operation of theInterstate and construct ten toll plazas at 30 mile intervals from Ohio to NewJersey. The estimated $946 million/year collected from them as well asincreased fare rates on the mainline Turnpike would go to fund highway andbridge repairs across the state. Needless to say, the news of an impendingfree route becoming tolled did not sit well with those who live and work alongthe Keystone Shortway. United States Representative Phil English of ErieCounty along with fellow Republican Representative John Peterson of VenangoCounty attempted to halt the tolling by introducing a bill in Congress thatwould forbid implementing tolls on a Federally funded Interstate. Petersondefended his actions by saying, "I'm taking on the Legislature because Ithink they are making a monumental mistake that is going to impact mydistrict." Truckers also balked at the idea of tolls and demonstratedthat dislike at a rally held at the capitol on September 24, 2007.However, officials continued to push ahead by announcing that the PTC wouldspend more than $1 billion on improvements to the Interstate over the next fewyears which would include repairing bridges, adding truck climbing lanes,upgrading pavement, and extending on-ramps. A 2005 PennDOT study estimatedit would cost $2.2 billion to convert I-80 to a toll road including constructionof new maintenance buildings and state police stations.

OnOctober 16, 2007, the Department of Transportation and Turnpike Commissionentered into a 50-year lease agreement for Interstate 80. As part of Act44, the two agencies filed a formal application with the Federal HighwayAdministration three days earlier seeking approval to implement tolls.However, in a letter dated October 17 to Transportation Secretary Allen Biehlerand PTC CEO Joseph Brimmeier, chief counsel and acting deputy administrator ofthe FHWA, James D. Ray stated, "As should be clear, FHWA has notgranted Pennsylvania the authority to toll I-80. In fact, now that we havereceived a formal application, we will conduct a thorough analysis of theapplication's merits based on the statutory criteria and determine if theselection of I-80 in Pennsylvania for one of three nationwide tolling pilotauthorities is appropriate. The approval of any application under thisprogram is a discretionary decision. We will take into account a variety offactors, including, but not limited to, actual or expected competition fromother interstate facilities."

Onthe night of Thursday, November 9, Congress eliminated one hurdle to tolls whenat the request of Governor Rendell, Democrats, and Republican Senator ArlenSpecter, the amendment to a transportation appropriations bill byRepresentatives English and Peterson was removed. "The fix isin," Representative English said in a press release. "It's clearthat House Democrats, with the speaker's blessing and without the opportunityfor a floor vote, have reversed the decision of the House from a few months ago,leaving I-80 open for the Harrisburg bureaucrats to toll."Representative Peterson said, "The state Legislature failed the people ofPennsylvania by allowing Act 44 to pass, and unfortunately, the majority oftheir Washington representatives, at the behest of Governor Rendell, failed themlast night too, by backing the tolling of I-80."

On July 14, 2008, the TurnpikeCommission announced its planned $2.5 billion upgrades to the Interstate in thefirst decade of ownership. "We now have a detailed improvementplan for I-80 backed by an increasing revenue stream," said PTC ChiefExecutive Officer Joe Brimmeier in a press release. "As the stewards ofI-80, this plan ensures we are passing on a first-class transportation system tothe next generation." The upgrades include building two newinterchanges to connect the Interstate with Interstate 99, replacing orresurfacing about 80 percent of the 311 miles, and replacing 60 originalbridges. On August 6, the PTC announced their toll collecting would bemuch different than that on their other expressways. Instead oftraditional toll plazas, Interstate 80 would be the first all electronic tollroad in Pennsylvania utilizing E-ZPass at nine gantries across the state eachcosting $60 million to build. Those without a transponder would get theirlicense plate photographed and be mailed a bill for their toll plus a $1processing fee, in both cases much like the 407 ETR outside of Toronto,Ontario. Those with transponders would also get a free pass at the firstgantry, roughly equating to a 60 mile free ride, then be charged $2.70 at thesecond and each gantry afterwards. This offer would not be extended tomost commercial vehicles, including 18-wheelers that account for up to 30% oftraffic on the Interstate, although regular users are eligible for volumediscounts.

The state resubmittedthe plan to the FHWA on July 22, 2008 and they expected the decision would taketwo or three months to decided on phase one approval for tolling Interstate80. It did take two months for a decision; however, to the delight ofpoliticians, residents, farmers, and truckers along the Keystone Shortway, itwas to reject the plan. Governor Edward Rendell announced on September 11,that the reason for the Federal Highway Administration rejection was that thelaw permitted three national pilot projects for tolling currently freeInterstates but it does not permit the revenue to be used for other highways.

It seemed that Governor Rendell wasready to throw in the towel when, on May 27, 2009, he said it was pointless forthe Turnpike Commission to reapply for permission to toll I-80. AllenBiehler, the Transportation Secretary who had recently become Chairman of thePTC, told a state House committee the day before he would meet with FHWAofficials to discuss the application. The Governor said, "I told himI thought it was a waste of time and he shouldn't waste his energy onit." State Representative John Pallone introduced a resolution in theHouse urging the Commission to resubmit the application. Reviving talkswith a new administration in Washington was something the Commonwealth waslooking towards, but Jordan Clark, chief of staff to US Representative GlennThompson of Centre County, who opposed tolling the Interstate, said the newBarack Obama administration would be less receptive to the proposal."I would say they have to rethink that," he said, adding that formerPresident George Bush's Secretary of Transportation, Mary Peters, "wouldtoll your driveway if you let her." However, Barry Schoch, the PTC'sproject manager for tolling I-80 was more optimistic saying that the Obamaadministration is "slowly getting in place" and that their focus hasbeen on the stimulus program and reauthorization of the federal surfacetransportation law.

By October 2009, the TurnpikeCommission was preparing to revive the application to toll I-80. Opponentsof the plan gathered, roughly 60 in all, on October 12 to hear a report thatraised economic and safety concerns about the two-year-old Act 44. "Folks, we are up against Philadelphia," thundered stateRepresentative Michele Brooks of Mercer County, after reading portions of a Philadelphia newspaper editorial supporting the tolls. Tracy C. Miller, an associate professor ofeconomics at Grove City College, was asked by opponents to study theissue. She said that trucks and cars that use the Interstate alreadygenerate $130 million in fuel taxes and fees per year, far above the $80 millionPennDOT spends on maintenance for the Interstate. Dr. Miller alsomentioned that truck traffic using secondary roads to avoid the tolls wouldincrease crashes, causing two to four additional deaths and 100 to 200 moreinjuries per year. Troy Hill, former president of the Mercer County FarmBureau, said tolls would hurt agriculture by raising the price of feed andsupplies coming in and products such as milk going out. However, theprincipal theme of the meeting was that tolls would steal from rural areas toenrich the urban areas. "A majority of it goes to the Philadelphiaand Pittsburgh areas. It's funding for their mass transit andinfrastructure needs," said state Senator Robert Robbins of MercerCounty. "They want to take our money and use it for their transitsystems and roads," agreed state Representative Scott Hutchinson of VenangoCounty. PTC CEO Joe Brimmeier issued a statement saying they wouldconsider the report as the process moves forward. "In the past twoyears, we've heard loud and clear that businesspeople and elected officials inthe I-80 corridor are concerned about the effects of increased transportationcosts, and I reassure them that we share those concerns," he said."Though we've not yet seen the study, our economic team will evaluate thedate from the document and consider its conclusions." StateRepresentative Rick Mirabito of Williamsport called for a survey to determinehow many out-of-state motorists utilize I-80. He said he remains opposedto tolls and is concerned about the re-filing of the application.Williamsport-Lycoming Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Vince Matteo, whoheads the Alliance to Stop I-80 Tolling, said those involved with business andindustry along the corridor are still concerned about the issue. "We are fully aware that they may re-submit it (application)," he said. "It's going to be another uphill battle." State RepresentativeMatthew E. Baker of Wellsboro mentioned a state law that was passed whichallowed tolling of Interstates, and that is still on the books, but one of theflaws is that it calls for revenues to be used throughout the state rather thatjust I-80. It seems to me that the FHA sees this as a major flaw as well and hencemay reject the application a third time," Baker said. It wasannounced on November 10, 2009 that State House Republican Leader Sam Smithasked US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to reject the revised applicationdue to issues he raised about Provident Capital Advisors and accused the PTC ofusing them to get the answers they wanted rather than independent analysis.

Gearing up for another shot attolling, PennDOT and the Turnpike Commission submitted a formal written responseto the Federal Highway Administration's memorandum issued in 2008. Thefiling included detailed financial analysis including the toll-funded paymentsbeing made between the two state transportation agencies from Provident CapitalAdvisors. "By filing this addendum, we'retaking a vital step toward closing a huge transportation-funding gap for ourstate," said PTC Chief Executive Joe Brimmeier. "Without tolls onI-80, state lawmakers and the administration would have to plug a $473 milliongap in next year's budget, and that gap will steadily widen, resulting in a $60billion decrease in infrastructure funding over the remaining 47-year term ofthe I-80 lease." The third application was submitted on October 29,2009.

Also gearing up was US RepresentativeGlenn "GT" Thompson of Centre County, and other lawmakers, to beatback any attempt to make I-80 a toll road. Thompson was among federal andstate officials meeting in Washington, DC on December 17 expressing theirdispleasure with the idea. "I still have a concern that tolling ispossible. But if that happens that would be based on a political decision,not on law," he said. Representative Thompson said his remarksfocused on how Act 44 was formulated, which he says does not meet "theletter of the law." He made it clear that tolls will not only hurtbusiness along the corridor, but around the state. "Tolling existingInterstate infrastructure is truly an anti-stimulus," he said."This is by letting Act 44 stand," he went on to say, "They havegone out and borrowed money with no plan to pay it back. What they aredoing is gambling with the state of Pennsylvania by rolling thedice." The most recent application included provisions such asallowing all non-commercial E-ZPass customers to travel through their first tollpoint without being charged, E-ZPass rebates for commercial carriers, and a $2.5billion, 10-year plan for various improvements to I-80. Thompson scoffedand said, "I've seen a lot of promises made in Washington. ThePennsylvania Turnpike Commission can't be trusted. I don' t think there isenough things they can promise and do." US Representatives Thompsonand Chris Carney met with federal Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, FederalHighway Administrator Victor Mendez, Dana Gresham, assistant secretary forGovernment Affairs, as well as US Representatives Kathy Dahlkemper and PaulKanjorski on January 19, 2010. They wanted to make it known that a tollroad would cripple the economy of the area they represented; however, neitherThompson nor Carney were given any assurances that the state's application wouldbe rejected. If it would be rejected, there was no backup plan.State Representative Joesph Markosek, chairman of the House TransportationCommittee, said Act 44 was Plan B, because the Legislature did not want to raisetaxes or fees.

One of the worst, if not the worst,traffic accidents in the state's history took place on February 10, 2010 inClearfield County. It was actually a combination of accidents that beganwith the first one reported at 9 AM on the eastbound lanes at mile marker 116involving 14 trucks and three passenger cars, with additional vehicles crashinguntil the final one made contact at mile marker 118 which brought the total to30 trucks and 20 passenger cars. The crash originated when twotractor-trailers jackknifed at mile marker 118, blocking both lanes and forcingthe vehicles behind to collide with those two trucks. The lone fatalitywas the driver of a vehicle that ran into the side of one of the trucks nearmile marker 116. Approximately 100 emergency responders had to access thesite by traveling west in the eastbound lanes, and were on the scene for fivehours. Due to the enormity of the accident, some of the travelers had tobe tended to at the scene then transported via Clearfield County-ownedall-terrain vehicles to the locations of the ambulances. Interstate 80'seastbound lanes were closed from Exit 111 to Exit 120 for 12 hours while debriswas cleared.

US Representative Glenn Thompson toldsupporters during a campaign swing in February 2010 that he expected good newson the I-80 tolling front.While politicians from the Interstate 80corridor were coming out against tolling, one came out on the oppositeside. State House Speaker Keith McCall, from Carbon County, wrote federalTransportation Secretary Ray LaHood urging him to ignore "a vocal minorityof our congressional delegation" and approve the tolls. "While I understand their desire to fight on behalf of their constituents,'' McCall said, "it is imperative that your office review this application (for tolls) in the proper context and with the foresight to look at the larger picture of the Commonwealth's best interest at the core -- the jobs and infrastructure improvements that the Commonwealth so desperately needs ... There can be no worse time to restrict funding options or to take away options for states nationwide ... ." Governor Rendell also made one last pushfor the tolling on March 23 when he met with LaHood, which he felt"optimistic" that authority would be granted.

Thatoptimism would be tempered on April 6, 2010 when the Federal HighwayAdministration announced that once again, Pennsylvania's application to tollI-80 had been rejected due to not meeting federal requirements. The FHWAstated that all money collected from tolls on I-80 would have to go towardsmaintaining the Interstate, and not other road and bridge projects around thestate as PennDOT and the PTC wanted. That afternoon, Governor Rendell called for aspecial session of the state Legislature to meet May 4 to address what would be a $472 millionshortfall in funds, and to finish its work before the end of the fiscal year onJune 30 to coincide with the new state budget. Without the tolls oranything to supplement funding, there would only be $450 million available forPennDOT ($250 million for transit and $200 million for road and bridgeconstruction), whereas if tolls had been approved, there would have beenapproximately $922 million available. Drawing from State RepresentativeJoe Markosek's earlier comments about Act 44 being "Plan B," StateRepresentative David Levdansky said, "Now we need Plan C -- C standing for cuts."State Representative Rick Geist of Blair County began laying out his ideas onhow to cull more money: moving the funding of the State Police to thestate's general fund from the Motor License Fund, tolling I-95 in southeasternPennsylvania, creating more public-private partnerships for road and bridgeconstruction, and lessening the burden on the state for mass transit from an 87%state/13% local funding mix to a 75%/25% split. The fate of Act 44 itselfwas unknown, with some legislators pushing for its repeal and others figuringit's a waste of time repealing it since the FHWA rejected its core concept.

While talk of tolling the remainder ofthe Interstate was going on, work on the existing toll plaza on I-80 was beingplanned.The Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission was lookingto build high-speed E-ZPass, also known as Open Road Tolling (ORT), lanes at theDelaware Water Gap Toll Bridge. Originally the lanes were planned to openby Memorial Day 2010, but rejected the construction bids itreceived. Frank G. McCartney, Executive Director of the DRJTBC,commented on their action saying, "Rather than start the construction project late and have it drag into the summer months, we have decided to postpone the work so any lane closures will occur after Labor Day. This new schedule will mitigate potential negative impacts to the region's seasonal tourism and recreational economy."He added that the new deadline of Thanksgiving 2010 was still four years aheadof the time frame outlined in the 2006 Northerly Crossings Study. Theengineering contract for the project was awarded on April 26, 2010 and theconstruction contract onJune 28, 2010. Work began in earlySeptember with the removal of three lanes of the eight-lane toll plaza andfinished with the lane opening to traffic around 11:45 AM on November 22.Over the week following the opening, from November 23 to November 29, 81,000vehicles used the lane and 156,987 vehicles used it in the second week ofoperation. During the night of May 9 and morning of May 10, successfultests were run on electronic vehicle monitoring system in the right shoulderadjacent to the Express E-ZPass lane, one of the last milestones in the project.The project officially ended August 1, 2011 and a 4-foot by 32-foot banner withthe DRJTBC logo and the words "Express E-ZPass is Here! Thank you foryour patience" was hung on the Oak Street overpass just west of the tollplaza for drivers the following day.

Separatefrom the ORT project, the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission waslooking to rehabilitate the bridge itself for the first time since 1989.Work entailed bearing and deck joint replacement, cleaning and painting of thesuperstructure, repairs to the substructure, replacement of the bridge drainageand under-bridge lighting, and seal coating of the deck. The $18.8 millionproject was substantially complete by the beginning of November with theremaining work wrapping up by mid-December. On February 7, 2013, thePennsylvania chapter of the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC-PA)presented a Diamond Award for Engineering Excellence to the DRJTBC and STV, theengineering firm that provided construction management and inspection servicesfor the rehabilitation project, during a ceremony in Hershey. The NewJersey chapter of the same organization bestowed the same award on March 13during a ceremony in Jamesburg, New Jersey.

No one likes a traffic jam andeveryone has heard the expression "when life hands you lemons, you makelemonade," well those two things came together December 6, 2010. Agroup of men traveling back home to Michigan were just some of the people stuckon the Interstate that afternoon in a traffic jam caused by an accident.Unlike others in the line of traffic, they decided to while away the time bydancing.

Hunting is a very popular sport innorthern Pennsylvania, and one man took the sport a little too close to theInterstate. On the evening of December 4, 2010, State Police cited ErichMay of State College for shooting on or across a highway after he killed a deerin the median near mile marker 107 in Clearfield County.

Travelers on the Interstate on March7, 2011 in Monroe County found a traffic jam, but it was not due directly toweather. Part of the roadway at the Sullivan Trail underpasscollapsed onto that road closing it and forcing the closure of the Interstate80's left lane. PennDOT officials were alerted to the problem by the StatePolice earlier in the day. "There's no structural issuesbecause of this. This is strictly the wing wall holding up the embankment toInterstate 80," said PennDOT bridge engineer Jay McGee. The"wing wall" is part of an overpass that holds back dirt from theembankment supporting the roadway that is passing overhead. The cause ofthe collapse was originally attributed to the wet weather that had passedthrough the area the day before. Crews temporarily rebuilt the embankmentuntil a permanent replacement wing wall was constructed, and the other wingwalls at that bridge and the one for westbound I-80 strengthened, in the summerof 2011.

At least three people were killed andanother 100 were injured in a pile-up that between Exit 28 and Exit 42 inVenango County on the afternoon of February 25, 2012. The chain-reactionaccident involved more than 70 vehicles, several of which were tractor-trailers,during whiteout conditions caused by lake-effect snow showers from LakeErie. "The snow was just blowing sideways. The visibility wasjust cut down drastically, probably 50 feet maybe, at times even less,"said Kara Spagnola, of Zelienople. "They were just smashedtogether. You couldn’t see where one truck began and the other oneended. We couldn’t see any cars at all but from what some witnesses hadsaid that they had seen some cars smashed up in between the tractortrailers." The poor conditions hampered emergency response, buttheeastbound side managed to reopen around 11 PM that night and the westbound sideearly morning of February 26.

As stated above, the section throughthe Stroudsburg-East Stroudsburg area is one of the oldest sections ofInterstate 80 in the state, and it shows. Improvements have been slatedfor the alignment such as widening from four to six lanes between Ninth Streetand Park Avenue, but Bob Werts had another idea. A member of the Safe 80Task Force, the group pushing for improving the Interstate, Mr. Werts proposeddouble-decking the expressway rather than widening it horizontally in thetraditional way. He did concede that going that way would be moreexpensive than the estimated $300 to $500 million projected for the wideningproject, but that it could be built without taking private property. RonYoung, spokesman for PennDOT, addressed the concern by saying the plannedwidening will still be cheaper, even with property acquisition factored.Planned 10-foot interior shoulders and 12-foot exterior shoulders will allowdisabled vehicles to be moved from the travel lanes, as well as acting astemporary lanes for traffic to get around. Longer ramps at interchangeswill allow merging traffic to get up to highway speeds, but improvements won'tbegin until 2020 at the earliest.

At a ceremony held on the Turnpike tounveil its initial 70 MPH speed limit zone on July 23, 2014, TransportationDeputy Secretary Brad Mallory announced that on August 11, the speed limit wouldincrease on Interstate 80 as part of a pilot project.The Act 89transportation bill passed in November 2013 gave PennDOT the power to raisespeed limits on their highways to a maximum of 70 MPH. The new limit officially went into effect on August 11 encompassing 88 miles of theInterstate from Exit 101 in Clearfield County to mile marker 189 in ClintonCounty, with installation of the new signs taking place that entire week. Support for thehigher speed limit came from a surprising source, as Clearfield County emergencyservice officials thought it was a safe move."The increase of speed doesn't mean you have to drive 70 mph.It is the maximum allowable speed, but the key is to consider that people maintain safe driving distances, they are alert to the traffic conditions and weather around them, than it can be a safe speed limit," Joesph Bigar, Clearfield County director of emergency services, said. While some sections of Interstate80 are notorious for multi-vehicle accidents, especially in harsh weather, he believesthat it ultimately comes down to a driver's own responsibility behind thewheel.

When the Coronavirus, orCOVID-19, pandemic swept into the country in March 2020, PennDOT took measuresto stem the spread to their employees and staff. At 12:01 AM on March 17,all rest areas and welcome centers across the state, including the ones inMercer, Venango, Jefferson, Centre, Clinton, Columbia, Montour, Luzerne, andMonroe counties, were closed to the traveling public. Also all DriverLicense and Photo License centers were closed for two weeks and constructionprojects on roads under the Department of Transportation's jurisdiction werestopped. Hearing that construction work was halted could come as welcomenews, the idea of closing down the rest areas did not sit well with truckers,trucking firms, nor some elected officials. It was then announced that onThursday, March 19, barricades would come down at 13 rest areas across the state,including the ones in Venango, Centre, and Montour counties, and they would bereopened with portable restroom facilities while the permanent facilities wouldremain closed. "Every decision made has been in the interest ofmitigating the spread of COVID-19 and we are constantly reevaluating ourresponse," said PennDOT spokeswoman Alexis Campbell. "That said,we also recognize that drivers need and deserve access to rest areas."PennDOT announced on March 24 that an additional 10 would reopen, including theones in Jefferson County. Those as well as the ones reopened earlier wouldprovide normal service with additional cleaning and maintenance. Anadditional five were reopened on Friday, March 27 which included the ones inLuzerne and Monroe counties.

The Delaware River Joint Toll BridgeCommission also took measures to stem the spread to their employees and staff.At 10:00 PM on March 24, all tolled bridges, including the Delaware Water Gap TollBridge, went to a cashless toll collection system. E-ZPass users wouldpass through the plazas as normal, and drivers who normally paid by cash weredirected to the far right lane of the toll plazas and to have their licenseplate captured. A bill for the toll only, without additionaladministrative or violation fees, would then be sent to their address whichwould then have to be paid within 30 days or else each unpaid transaction wouldface a $30 violation fee. At 11 PM on May 13, the DRJTBC began acceptingcash payments again. Additional safety measures were put in place, such astoll collection staff being given plastic face shields, masks, and nitrilegloves. They also encouraged drivers paying by cash to wear a facecovering when using a cash lane.

On February 7, 2021, PennDOT workersdiscovered a woman's body off the eastbound off-ramp at Exit 199/Mill Run inUnion County. The ramp was closed while state troopers investigated.The body was identified as Rebecca Landrith, 47, a professional model in NewYork City and from Virginia. The Union County coroner said she had been shot in the headmultiple times and ruled her death a homicide. Troopers believe the victim traveled throughIndiana and Wisconsin between February 4 and February 6. Policeapprehended Tracy Rollins, Jr., 28, of Dallas, Texas on February 10 at a truckstop in Southington, Connecticut. Authorities believe Landrith was likelyshot elsewhere before Rollins dumped her body at the interchange.Pennsylvania state police determined he was driving a tractor-trailer, which wasdiscovered by Connecticut troopers at a truck stop near the interchange ofInterstates 84 and 691. Rollins was detained on a $1 million bond on acharge of being a fugitive from justice and faces extradition to Pennsylvania.

Placing tolls on Interstate 80 has ofcourse been discussed since it opened, and another idea came to light onFebruary 18, 2021. Instead of tolling the entire highway, PennDOT wants toput toll gantries at four specific bridges along the route.

With the amount of revenue from thegasoline tax falling due to more fuel-efficient vehicles as well as a drop indriving due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Transportation's budgethas been taking a hit. Nine bridges across the state are targeted to be apart of the PennDOT Pathways Major Bridge Public-Private Partnership (P3)Initiative, and were selected from various regions so as to not impact one partof the state more severely than another. Toll gantries would be installedat the crossings and, because PennDOT is forbidden from collecting tolls, wouldbe operated by the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission with E-ZPass and PA TurnpikeTOLL BY PLATE equipment to read tags or captures license plates with tollsranging from $1 to $2 for cars. The cost for trucks has yet to bedetermined but would be based on a combination of height and number of axles.The PTC would then forward the money to the Department of Transportation forreplacement or rehabilitation and continued maintenance of the bridges.One that is being looked at is the widening, bridge replacement, and interchangereconfiguration project at Exit 54 in Allegheny County. Needless to say,the public, legislators, and trucking companies were not pleased to hear thisnews. During an Appropriations Committee hearing on February 23, 2021,where more than a half dozen committee members questioned TransportationSecretary Yassmin Gramian about the potential tolls, state Representative MikeCarroll of Luzerne County reminded his colleagues they had no one to blame butthemselves. He mentioned that the Public-Private TransportationPartnership Board was created by a 2012 law passed that delegated approval forjust this situation to appointees of the governor and top lawmakers. WhileRepresentative Carroll did not vote for the bill, others who are now criticizingthe prospect of bridge tolls did.

Brandon Moree, director of memberscommunications for the Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association, which representsabout 1,400 trucking firms, has been encouraging members to contact legislatorsand fill out online surveys by PennDOT about the proposal. The groupsupported the Act 89 legislation passed in 2013 that increased funding through arise in the fuel tax. "Here we are seven years later and we’rebeing asked to pay the bill again," Moree said. "We feel wealready pay our fair share. We feel like where fuel taxes already are, wepay enough." Rick Daley, president of PMTA’s Western Pennsylvaniadistrict and a vice president at Tri-State Trailer Sales Inc. on Neville Islandin Allegheny County, suggested an alternative would be for the state to helptrain more truck drivers, because he’s aware of many companies that could shipmore loads if they had more drivers, and therefore would pay more taxes andfees. Others are also questioning whether the cost of installing thetolling gantries and associated equipment outweighs the benefit from the smalltolls proposed for cars. The Federal Highway Administration still has toreview the plan and decide if tolls are allowed to be charged. TheAssociated Pennsylvania Constructors, a prominent highway construction tradeassociation in the state, came out on March 24, 2021 to oppose the idea.While the group generally supports tolling to fund projects, Executive VicePresident Robert Latham explained to the House Transportation Committee that thecost of private financing would drive up project costs and relying on tolling tocover construction costs is risky.

The State Senate passed a bill onApril 28, 2021 to force PennDOT to start the planning process over by providingmore transparency about its proposals, publicly advertising them, opening theplan up to public comments, and seeking approval from both the governor and theLegislature. The bill passed 28 to 19 with support from all of the Republicansenators and one Democrat senator. During the floor debate, SenateAppropriations Committee Chairman Pat Browne, citing successful transportationfunding efforts have usually required cooperation between lawmakers, said"This initiative and the way it is being advanced is totally counter tothat legacy." Senator John Sabatina from Philadelphia said, "Asmuch as I loathe to tax my constituents to fix a bridge, I'd rather tax themthan have them suffer through a catastrophe when the Girard Point Bridge fallsdown." He added, sooner or later "a bridge is going to collapseand we're all going to look at each other and say, 'how did that happen?How could we have prevented that?'" The bill now goes to theHouse of Representatives, but it will probably not go further as Governor Wolfopposes it and the Senate lacks a veto-proof majority.

On July 16, 2021, US RepresentativeGuy Reschenthaler proposed an amendment to the annual transportation fundingbill to prohibit PennDOT from using federal money if it imposes tolls on bridgesor roadways that are part of the federal highway system. "This isnothing more than a tax on Pennsylvania's workers and families who use thesebridges every day to travel to work and school," RepresentativeReschenthaler said during the introduction to his amendment during a markuphearing by the House Appropriations Committee. "It woulddisproportionately impact our nation's tradesmen, medical professionals, andothers who aren't part of what I call the 'Zoom class,'" he added.The amendment was rejected by a 33 to 24 vote. US Representative David Price,chair of the subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, saidthat it was outside the jurisdiction of the committee to rule of state tollingplans and punish states for imposing certain tolls. "It wouldpre-empt the commonwealth's authority to make decisions on this at the local orstate level where the authority currently lies," Representative Price said.It would "be reconstituting this committee as the Pennsylvania Board ofTransportation." While not completely endorsing the tolling plan, theFederal Highway Administration acknowledged that PennDOT is considering theright options when looking at new sources of revenue in a statement they issuedin mid-October 2021 in what is referred to as a "concurrence."

The plan suffered a setback onNovember 16, 2021 when the Pennsylvania House passed a bill to void theproposal. State representatives voted 125 to 74 to require legislativeapproval to add tolls as well as requiring PennDOT to publicly advertise anytoll proposals, take public comments, and require approval from both thegovernor and Legislature. The legislation requires a Senate vote but facesopposition from Governor Tom Wolf. While the United States Congress passedthe Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act ten days earlier, the tolling planwould pay for the repair or reconstruction of the bridges and keep the influx offederal dollars for other projects across the state. "We are allelected to represent our areas and have a voice for them, but the way thistranspired, we did not have a voice," said Representative Sheryl Delozier,whose district would be affected by proposed tolls on the John Harris MemorialBridge on Interstate 83 in Harrisburg. Representative Mike Carroll ofLuzerne County, the ranking Democrat on the Transportation Committee, citedRepublicans having turned aside a Democratic proposal to require approval ofspecific projects by the Legislature when the Public Private TransportationPartnership was approved by the majority Republican General Assembly in 2012."It was your caucus' idea," Representative Carroll told HouseRepublicans. "You voted for it — your caucus. You advanced itto Governor Corbett and he signed it." Representative Tim Hennessey,the Transportation Committee chairman, mentioned the new infrastructure billbeing a "sudden influx of money" which could be used to fund bridgerepairs. "Frankly, the citizens of Pennsylvania will have a hard timeunderstanding the need for tolling in light of that," RepresentativeHennessey said. However, Representative Carroll warned that "Everysingle county in the state will have projects that do not get done if we have todedicate $2 billion of the $4 billion to fix nine bridges."

On February 24, 2022, PennDOTSecretary Yassmin Gramian told the Senate Appropriations Committee at a hearingon the 2022-2023 budget that the department is willing to consider alternativesto tolling but hasn't seen any other ideas that would generate the $2.5 billionneeded to replace the nine bridges. She said the state is about $8.1billion short on needed road and bridge funding every year, and the departmentis proposing a public-private partnership where the bridges would be turned overto a private company for replacement and maintenance for 30 years with the tollspaying the cost. Ms. Gramian stressed the importance keeping the ninebridges open without weight restrictions and replacing them before they have tobe closed. The still will receive $4 billion over five years through thefederal infrastructure program, but that will just address the shortfall.She said the state needs to spend $1 billion of its own money to get that, sothe state will still be short. The department was in the process ofreviewing proposals from two teams of contractors that submitted formalproposals after three had originally expressed interest in the project.They refused to identify the group which dropped out and expected to choose acontractor within the following weeks. One of the proposals was from agroup with an international firm as the leader and the other a national firm.SenateTransportation Committee Chairman Wayne Langerholc, Jr. questionedwhy specifications were written to exclude Pennsylvania firms from being thelead. PennDOT’s director of the Alternative Funding Program, KenMcClain, said only large firms have the capacity to handle projects of thissize, but the contract will be written so that Pennsylvania firms get 65% of thework. Under questioning from Senator Devlin Robinson, McClain said thebridges were picked because they were all built in the early 1960s, havedeterioration, need upgrades such as wider shoulders and higher side railings,and were chosen to give geographical balance to distribute the impact. Headded the department is committed to keeping any excess money beyond usage forconstruction, maintenance, and a reserve fund, from tolling for projects in thearea of the tolled bridge. Studies would have been conducted after tollswere implemented to see whether a large volume of motorists were using localroads to avoid the toll and make improvements on those roads where needed.

On March 9, 2022, the Department ofTransportation announced it had picked a consortium of companies, now calledBridging Pennsylvania Partners, to manage construction on up to nine bridges.It said the group was chosen from among three finalists, but it had not decidedwhich of the nine bridges would be eventually tolled. The winningapplications included three international firms: US-based subsidiaries ofIsrael-based Shikun & Binui, a development subsidiary of Australia-basedMacquarie Group, and Spanish construction firm FCC Construcción. Theapplication included four other firms which specialize in design or heavyconstruction and have US-based parent companies with a headquarters inPennsylvania. PennDOT and the consortium was to have entered into a"pre-development agreement" to finalize the design and packing of thebridges to be built, financed, and maintained. The department was in themidst of conducting public hearings and environmental reviews on the bridges.The first bridges was scheduled to be under contract by December 2022, and afterthe design process, construction expected to begin between Fall 2023 and Spring2024.

One of the final steps before tollingcould begin was that the Federal Highway Administration would have to review theplans. US Representative Glenn "GT" Thompson met with the FHWAduring the week of March 6 to raise concerns over the PennDOT program,specifically the "grave economic and safety impacts these proposals willhave on the local communities and the Commonwealth." Theadministration said that the Department of Transportation would have to gothrough the National Environmental Policy Act process for each bridge that isplanned to be tolled. The NEPA evaluates environmental and related socialand economic effects of a proposed action and includes citizen involvement."While FHWA does not have the authority to outright reject PennDOT’sbridge tolling proposals, it does have a duty to provide adequate oversight ofthe process, which to this point, has had zero accountability to anyone – mostof all to local stakeholders and the traveling public," Thompson said."While this will slow the pace of PennDOT’s proposals, the BidenAdministration should not turn a blind eye to PennDOT’s haphazard plans."Secretary Yassmin Gramian reported that PennDOT reached out to more than 60,000homes and businesses statewide, but did not indicate how they felt about theproposed bridge tolling. "The Secretary likes to boast that publicengagement and feedback has been central to PennDOT`s bridge tolling plan,"Thompson said. "However, we know that more than 90% of Pennsylvaniansvehemently oppose bridge tolling."

All of this back-and-forth would befor naught when on May 18, 2022, Commonwealth Court Judge Ellen Ceisler granteda preliminary injunction to halt the tolling plans. The ruling came inresponse to the lawsuit filed by municipalities in the Harrisburg area thatobjected to tolling the John Harris Memorial Bridge on Interstate 83. APennDOT spokesperson said that evening that they were reviewing the opinion.The judge's order prohibits PennDOT from taking any further action whichincludes conducting studies, hearings or meetings, design development,right-of-way acquisition, tolling, construction, or expenditure of any funds.On April 25, PennDOT argued in court that the municipalities lacked standing tobring their complaints and had no active claim because any claimed impact fromthe project hadn't occurred yet. In her opinion, Judge Ceisler wrote thatthe municipalities involved in the suit do indeed have standing to state a claimas they have both a substantial and direct interest in the matter.Furthermore, she wrote that the petitioners were denied proper procedure whenPennDOT approved the Pathways Bridge Public-Private Partnership (P3) withoutconsulting them, and that not identifying specific bridges in the initiative wasa violation by the board. "[The Act] plainly requires thisconsultation to precede approval: the Board’s duty is to consult with thoseaffected by 'proposed' transportation projects, not projects alreadyapproved," Ceisler wrote. "All evidence in the record points to theconclusion that the board did not consult with affected persons before approvingthe initiative; instead, it (or, more accurately, [PennDOT]) purported to do soafterward, once specific bridges were announced." The judge alsofound the board never showed any finding that the partnership was in the bestinterest of the Commonwealth as required by law. "At best, theboard’s interest determination is implicit; at worst, the board failed to makeany finding at all," the judge wrote. "The board essentiallyapproved a massive multi-billion dollar infrastructure initiative on anadmittedly meager record, consisting of a 4-page recommendation from [PennDOT],a presentation, and minimal discussion, and without understanding which, or howmany, pieces of public infrastructure the initiative would affect."

Even still, a group of Republicanstate senators held a rally at the state capitol on June 8 to protest thetolling of the nine bridges. The lawmakers were joined by members of theNo P3 Bridge Tolling coalition, a group of chambers of commerce, businessowners, and local officials that was created to oppose PennDOT's tolling plan.It turns out, on June 30, 2022, Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court permanentlyblocked the plan to toll the nine bridges. PennDOT spokesperson AlexisCampbell said the legislature "failed" to offer solutions beyond theP3 program to assist with infrastructure funding. She said the departmentwas reviewing the opinion when asked if PennDOT indented to appeal to the stateSupreme Court. "The Wolf administration continues to welcomediscussions with the General Assembly on alternative funding sources that canreplace the gas tax, which is no longer a dependable source of funding to meetall bridge and highway needs in this commonwealth," she said.

In the aftermath of the decision, USRepresentative Glenn "GT" Thompson calledon Secretary of Transportation, Yassmin Gramian, to resign. "For morethan a year, I have voiced my concerns to PennDOT Secretary Gramian that theagency was putting forth an untenable tolling proposal. Along the way, shemade it clear through her actions that public engagement was merely anafterthought. This was apparent when she refused to take questions fromfederal and state legislators at a field hearing last spring in Clarion.Under Secretary Gramian, PennDOT has wasted millions of dollars in taxpayerfunds through her quest to impose a new tax upon Pennsylvanians and thetraveling public,"Rep. Thompson said. "She has violatedboth the law and the public’s trust — Secretary Gramian should resign,effective immediately." In response, the Wolf Administration issuedthe following response: "It is unfortunate that CongressmanThompson– who voted NO on the legislation that is now the BipartisanInfrastructure Law– is wasting taxpayer time and money spewing false claimsregarding PennDOT’s public engagement. Instead of playing political games, thecongressman’s time would be better spent working on a solution for alternativefunding sources that will support Governor Wolf’s desire to phase outPennsylvania’s gas tax. Pennsylvanians deserve solutions, not pr stunts.Secretary Gramian is an incredible leader and highly-qualified infrastructureexpert with more than 30 years of experience in the industry. The governoris proud she serves the commonwealth, and that she will continue to do so."

Even with the courts putting thekybosh on the plan, PennDOT could still work with the group of contractors andinvestors led by Australian-based Macquarie Infrastructure Developments, LLCknown as the Bridging Pennsylvania Partners. The only problem is that thedepartment would still need to find a way to fund the work, which for all ninebridges, would add up to about $2.5 billion. A bill passed by the GeneralAssembly on July 7 and signed by Governor Tom Wolf on July 11, puts morerestrictions on how public-private partnerships can be established. Thebill also allows the state to move forward with Macquarie so it doesn't lose$14.8 million in preliminary work the group and PennDOT had done over theprevious 18 months, as well as giving the General Assembly more time to reviewpartnership deals. "Now that [the bill] is officially official, we'llget rolling," said PennDOT spokesperson Alexis Campbell. "Thesebridges are important and we want to make sure we can get them done and have asmuch money available as possible to get our other work done." Aspokesperson for Macquarie said the state has informed them to be on stand-bywhile it decides how to proceed. If it walks away from the deal, the statewould owe the company a relatively small amount of money.

Exit Guide
Interstate 80 Ends
Interstate 80 PicturesDelawareWater Gap Toll Bridge - Delaware River Joint Toll BridgeCommission
E-ZPass - DelawareRiver Joint Toll Bridge Commission
Interstate 80 - Andy Field/Alex Nitzman
Interstate80 - David Golub
Interstate 80 - DavidSteinberg
Interstate 80Pictures - Andy Field/Alex Nitzman
Interstate 80Pictures - Steve Alpert
Interstate80 Photos - Valerie Deane

Pennsylvania Highways: Interstate 80 (12) INFORMATION
Western Entrance: Ohio state line three miles west of West Middlesex
Eastern Entrance: New Jersey state line at the Delaware Water Gap Bridge in Stroudsburg
Length: 310.70 miles
National Highway System: Entire length
Names: Z. H. Confair Memorial Highway
Keystone Shortway
SR Designation: 0080
Counties: Mercer, Venango, Butler, Clarion, Jefferson, Clearfield, Centre, Clinton, Union, Northumberland, Montour, Columbia, Luzerne, Carbon, and Monroe
Multiplexed Routes: PA 66: Exit 60 to Exit 64
Truck PA 28: Exit 78 to Exit 81
Alternate US 220: Exit 158 to Exit 161
US 220: Exit 161 to Exit 178
US 209: Exit 302A to Exit 309
Former Designation: US 611 (1953 - 1963): Exit 310 to the New Jersey state line
I-82 (1957 - 1958): Exit 293 to the New Jersey state line
US 611 (1963 - 1965): Exit 299 to Exit 310
Former LR Designations: 1009: Ohio state line to Exit 293
1002: Exit 293 to Exit 304
794: Exit 304 to the New Jersey state line
Emergency: 911
Pennsylvania Highways: Interstate 80 (13)
Traffic Cameras:
US 219
PA 255
PA 153
PA 879
Alternate US 220/PA 150 East
Alternate US 220/PA 150 West
PA 93
PA 309
Advisory Radio: 1640 AM
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Page updated November 05, 2022.
Content and graphics, unless otherwise noted, copyright © Jeffrey J. Kitsko. All rights reserved.
Information sign courtesy of Richard C. Moeur.
Information courtesy of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation,Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission, TheStory of the Keystone Shortway by the Keystone Shortway Association, Rand McNally,Associated Press, Greensburg Tribune-Review, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, KDKA-TVPittsburgh, Federal Highway Administration, The Daily Item,Centre Daily Times,Northeast Pennsylvania News, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Penn State Collegian,Williamsport Sun-Gazette,The ClearfieldProgress, Pocono Record, the Hazleton Standard-Speaker, WNEP-TV Scranton, KYW-TVPhiladelphia, WTAE-TV Pittsburgh, WTAJ-TV Altoona, and Philadelphia Inquirer.
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