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Lawmaker calls for halt to PennDOT plan to toll nine bridges

A view of I-80 bridge over the Lehigh River in the borough of White Haven, Pa., Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021.. Carbon County commissioners aren't keen on a plan to toll bridges along Interstate 80 to fund construction projects. Commissioner Chris Lukasevich on Thursday said Pennsylvania residents already pay the highest gas tax in the United States, and feels that state should better use existing funds. (Warren Ruda/Standard-Speaker via AP)

HARRISBURG (AP) — The chairman of Pennsylvania’s Senate Transportation Committee on Wednesday said he wants to halt plans to toll nine major bridges on interstates around the state.

Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Wayne Langerholc, R-Cambria, introduced a bill to require legislative authorization of any proposed transportation project with a user fee, even it is approved by a public-private transportation board lawmakers created in 2012.

The bill also aims to create a new process for informing lawmakers and the public about a proposed project that the state Department of Transportation brings to the Public-Private Transportation Partnership Board.

The board is composed of appointees of the governor and top lawmakers. In November, it authorized PennDOT to install electronic tolling gantries on bridges to finance their reconstruction, the first time it had approved toll projects.

The department named nine bridges last month, but some lawmakers are unhappy over it.

Transportation Secretary Yassmin Gramian has told lawmakers that the aging bridges are in need of major reconstruction and the department needs more money to keep up with its public safety obligations.

Tolls would be between $1 and $2, probably both ways, raise about $2.2 billion and last from the start of construction in 2023 for three or four years until construction is finished, Gramian told lawmakers last month.

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