State Rep. Rick Mirabito, a Williamsport Democrat, says stipulations in a state bill passed amid budget talks may revive the push for tolls on Interstate 80 in Pennsylvania.
His Republican counterparts who represent the area say otherwise.
Mirabito says the bill would create a public-private partnership to consider ways to fund transportation needs. He says that partnership could be the vehicle used to reintroduce a plan to establish tolls on Interstate 80.
State Rep. Garth Everett pointed out that the decision to reject tolls on Interstate 80 was a federal one.
"We couldn't toll I-80 if we wanted to," Everett says.
We certainly hope Everett is correct. Tolls never were and never will be a good idea for Interstate 80 in Pennsylvania. It's bad for businesses along the route and punitive to the large trucking industry that depends on I-80 in Pennsylvania for economic hauling of goods and services.
If the public-private partnership wants to represent the needs of Pennsylvania, it can engineer the privatization of the turnpike system. Sale of the turnpike system and its tolling mechanism could generate much of the funding needed for the state's highways and bridges. Just as with the antiquated liquor store system, privatization of the turnpike would create a more efficient operation and give the state a large revenue jolt for the purpose of maintaining roads and bridges.
These seem like revolutionary steps because Pennsylvania has been so slow to drop its big government systems that aren't efficient. Other states make changes in the name of problem-solving and, frankly, fiscal survival.
Pennsylvania needs to join that group of forward-thinking states.