By Shelia Dunn, NMA Communications Director
The technology revolution grinds on, and more jobs will be eliminated as more companies realize they can automate functions. That’s exactly what happened in Pennsylvania during the COVID-19 Crisis.
Due to the pandemic, the state’s turnpike commission stopped accepting cash payments for tolls due to safety and announced this would be a temporary measure. The plan initially had been worked out to switch to cashless tolling in late 2021, and the commission in mid-May announced a negotiated union contract for employment for toll booth workers through January 2022.
Two weeks later, officials laid off roughly half of the commission’s total workforce and have gone completely cashless in the process.
The Teamsters Union feels betrayed and vows it will file a suit against the Turnpike Commission. State lawmakers also hammered members of the commission over the decision. They even accused the commission at one point of using the pandemic as a cover to make a last-minute decision to electronic tolling.
In other tolling news from the past few weeks, the Landline’s Podcast had a discussion entitled, A Roadblock for Interstate Tolling that might of interest.
In California and Florida some positive news in the efforts to block tolls:
- California Senate to Vote on Bill SB1373 Blocking Toll Road through San Clemente
- Florida’s Turnpike Shelves $1.1B Local Project in East Orange County
Despite the pandemic crisis, toll opponents are still fighting the good fight:
- Florida Opinion: New Toll Roads Being Pushed At Worst Possible Time
- Florida: Environmentalists Oppose Tying Broadband Expansion to Toll Roads
- New Jersey’s Ocean County Freeholders Voice Opposition to Toll Hikes
Michigan Lawmakers have advanced a toll road feasibility study. It will be interesting to watch if Governor Gretchen Whitmer signs the bill. Both parties have been fighting tooth and nail on how to fund much-needed infrastructure in the state. In 2019, state lawmakers opposed the Governor’s proposed 45-cent increase to the state’s 26.3-cent fuel tax rate. In January, the State Senate passed SB517 that would set up a panel to investigate the feasibility of charging tolls on roads and bridges. This month, that same bill passed the House Transportation Committee, and now it’s on its way to the full House for a vote. In April 2019, the Governor was against tolls, and as recently as January said that she would like to see a number of funding sources for infrastructure.
On July 1st, RiverLinks will raise tolls again on its Ohio River Bridges. New York has lifted its pandemic restrictions and is accepting cash tolls again. The Washington State’s Transportation Commission is considering raising tolls on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge due to less toll collection during the pandemic. Virginia Regulators will be holding a hearing June 30th on the Dulles Greenway rate hike plan. Residents can offer comments by phone.
NMA also has resources that might help in local efforts to fight tolls and fight for proper funding of infrastructure.
- NMA Tolls Issue Page
- NMA Principle Number 6: Reasonable highway user fees for maintaining and improving highways, not for financing non-highway projects
- E-ZPass is Anything But: A Motorist’s Viewpoint
- Paying More for Less Service: NMA E-Newsletter #534
- Some numbers to chew on
- Is an Infrastructure Apocalypse on the Horizon?
- Taking Tolling to Task: NMA Weekly E-Newsletter #480
- No More Toll Roads
- Congestion Pricing Cannot be the Future of Transportation Funding, Part 1: NMA E-Newsletter #468
- Congestion Pricing Cannot be the Future of Transportation Funding, Part 2: NMA Weekly E-Newsletter #469
Want to keep track of the many issues currently involved in tolls and other infrastructure funding? Take a daily peek at the NMA’s Driving News Feed or subscribe to Driving News Daily, a five times per week email.