Suit dismissed over turnpike toll increases

It’s fair to wish a lawsuit over Pennsylvania Turnpike toll increases to fund the state’s transit agencies had been successful.

But realistically, the ruling by U.S. District Judge Yvette Kane is hard to argue with. The judge ruled against the lead plaintiff, a Missouri-based trucking company, which had argued the tolls far exceed the cost of operating the turnpike and support causes that don’t relate to the operation, maintenance and improvement of the highway system.

Kane ruled that the tolls are the same for in-state and out-of-state drivers and do not burden commerce between states. The judge correctly pointed out there are toll-free alternative routes for the truckers.

We would hope, however, that the ruling would elicit some slices of humble pie and embarrassment from state leaders.

Tolls on the turnpike have risen 11 consecutive years. They have tripled since 2008, the year after state legislation called for more money to be pumped into Pennsylvania’s highways and public transit systems.

We would hope the state’s leaders would be embarrassed by that track record and the fact that it’s debatable whether all the expenditures have significantly improved the major elements of Pennsylvania’s highway system.

In fact, more than half the turnpike commission’s annual revenue of $1.2 billion goes to debt payments, with $450 million going toward payment on the bond associated with the 2007 legislation.

That payment is scheduled to drop to $50 million in 2022.

At that point, there will be no excuse for annual toll increases.

The Independent Drivers Association may not have had a strong legal argument against the tolls.

But we hope the net effect of the group’s attempt will be a chastened state leadership that does a better job of improving the state highway in a way that matches the exorbitant amount of money dedicated to it

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