Harrisburg Capitol Building
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A central Pennsylvania lawmaker has introduced a measure to ensure that Pennsylvania officials have the final say over whether interestate highways running through the state are tolled.

The bill, proposed by state Rep. Matt Gabler, R-Clearfield, stems from Act 44 of 2007, which leased I-80 along the northern tier of the state to the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission. The commission planned to toll the highway, but the Federal Highway Administration in 2010 rejected the plan.

“This bill is intended to make sure any future discussions about tolling run a transparent course through state government to avoid surprises and give citizens a strong voice,” Gabler said in a statement.

Gabler said he was spurred to float the measure by an Obama administration proposal to allow tolls on interstate highways. He said that his bill would make any tolling “the responsibility of individuals who answer to the voters of Pennsylvania.”

Transportation officials said that any tolling plans lost steam with the approval last fall of a comprehensive funding plan that relies on an increase in the wholesale gas tax and fee increases.

“It would take a change in direction for us to look at tolling now that we are well funded again,” said Eric Bugaile, a transportation expert for the state House of Representatives Republican Caucus.

A turnpike spokesman said the commission doesn’t advocate one form of revenue over another, but takes its orders from the General Assembly.

“We will implement whatever is required by law,” said Carl DeFebo, director of public relations for the turnpike. “But with the new funding stream, we are a lot better off than some states that are even looking at increasing sales taxes to raise more transportation revenue.”

— J.L.K. •