A state Grange official Tuesday spoke out against Interstate 80 tolls during a visit to Lycoming County Tuesday.
Betsy E. Huber, master-president of the Pennsylvania State Grange, said the use of tolls will hurt the regional economy and increase traffic along secondary highways, creating safety problems and additional maintenance for those roads.
Huber made a stop at the Eagle Grange in Clinton Township along with National Grange President Ed Luttrell who addressed the organization's mission and related issues during the brief stop attended by a handful of people.
Betsy Huber, state grange president, and Edward L. Luttrell, national grange president, attend a grange meeting in Montgomery Tuesday.
Huber said tolls will mean higher costs for consumers of various goods transported along the highway.
She said revenues from tolls will be passed onto to SEPTA and other state funding needs unrelated to I-80.
So far, the state Grange has actively lobbied against tolls and conferred with federal Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood about the matter.
While the Grange supports increased funding for needed upgrades of roads and bridges statewide, tolling I-80 is not the way to go, she said.
"We support modest increases to the fuel tax," she explained.
Huber said Grange membership statewide has come out against tolls.
She said the state Grange in 2008 adopted a resolution opposing the tolling of interstate highways built with federal funds.
Luttrell added that the national Grange later adopted a similar resolution.
Sun-Gazette Publisher Bernard A. Oravec reiterated the Sun-Gazette's editorial stance in opposition to tolling the highway.
Luttrell called broadband networks and civic participation two of the biggest priorities of the national Grange.
Broadband connections to rural areas, he said, will only enhance communities both economically and environmentally.
He called for more teaching throughout the nation of The Constitution, civic values and free enterprise as a means of helping to strengthen communities.
Luttrell said the Grange will continue to be a viable force in America, especially in the support of families, communities and agriculture.
"If we had stronger families we would have less problems," he said. "For that reason the Grange is just as relevant as it was 142 years ago (when it was founded)."