New Legislation Puts the Brakes on Tolling PA Interstate Bridges

Entire News Conference

Senator Mensch Remarks

HARRISBURG – State Senator Bob Mensch (R-24) joined colleagues today to announce the introduction of legislation to stop the proposed plan to toll bridges on Pennsylvania’s interstate system.

Senate Bill 382 would reform the Public-Private Transportation Partnership (P3) statute to void the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s (PennDOT) Pathways Major Bridge P3 Initiative.

“Senate Bill 382 will help to provide better government to Pennsylvania. Senate District 24, the District that I represent, encompasses three counties – Berks, Bucks, and Montgomery,” Mensch said. “My greatest concern with the action of the P3 Board is the effect on commercial development in Berks County. Are we creating winners and losers with the way we’re tolling bridges? I think we are, and I believe we need to sit at the table and talk about this together to come up with a better funding solution.”

On November 12, 2020, the P3 Board, under PennDOT’s jurisdiction, supported a proposal to impose user fees or tolls on major bridges throughout the interstate system. This was the first time in the P3 Board’s history to consider a proposal with user fees.

The serious gaps in the P3 statue became clear when PennDOT finally announced the details of the proposal three months after the P3 Board meeting. The P3 statute requires a detailed analysis prior to the meeting.

Senate Bill 382 would accomplish the following:

  • Increases transparency by requiring PennDOT to publish a detailed analysis prior to the P3 Board’s voting meeting, and mandating PennDOT to distribute a copy of the P3 Board’s resolution, with or without a user fee, within 24 hours.
  • Incorporates public input by creating a new 30-day public comment period prior to the P3 Board meeting.
  •  Creates checks and balances on the obscure P3 Board by clarifying any P3 project with a user fee shall be deemed disapproved unless the General Assembly approves.
  • Voids the PennDOT Pathways Major Bridge P3 Initiative and requires consideration by the P3 Board following the new process outlined in Senate Bill 382.

“This isn’t about who is right or who is wrong. This isn’t about money. This is about an economy – a government – that can begin to again communicate effectively. Over the last year, we’ve had many actions by the Administration in which the legislature wasn’t consulted,” Mensch said. “We need to begin talking as three co-equal branches and the legislature needs to have a position in actions such as tolling nine bridges in Pennsylvania. It is ultimately the people that we represent that will pay these tolls, and we must be consulted in order to represent their voices.”

Act 88 authorized the creation of the P3 Board to expedite transportation projects in Pennsylvania. There are various P3s benefiting the Commonwealth’s transportation system, such as the construction of compressed natural gas fueling stations at transit agencies and the rapid replacement of 558 state-owned bridges.

The Senate Transportation Committee held a hearing on January 25 to examine the loopholes of this P3 Initiative. The Committee expects to consider Senate Bill 382 this month.

For more information on Senator Mensch’s legislation, visit www.senatormensch.com.  State updates can also be found on Senator Mensch’s Facebook at facebook.com/PASenatorBobMensch/ or Twitter @SenatorMensch.

CONTACT: Madison Scarfaro mscarfaro@pasen.gov  (215) 541-2388