PA Turnpike Fast Facts
Pennsylvania Turnpike Fast Facts for April 29, 2008:
The Yellow Brick Road Really is Gold
We can also benefit from an application of common sense when we study the advantages and disadvantages of applying tolls to Pennsylvania roadways. While we can reasonably expect the public sector to provide normal roads and streets for us as a public good, a “superhighway” or expressway that allows drivers to travel at higher rates of speed and arrive at our destinations more quickly is a project above and beyond the normal provision of governmental services. Therefore, if we desire to travel at an accelerated rate of speed and have access to government facilities not normally provided, we should have to pay for them if we use them. This is the rationale for highway tolls. A highway toll is nothing more than a user’s fee.
Tolls can be used to pay for the construction and/or maintenance of the roadways upon which they are collected. These fees have been used since the establishment of the first civilizations as a means to pay for the provision of those special facilities.
The idea of having Pennsylvania State government toll Route 80 is not new. Many state policymakers have discussed this proposal in different forums over the last two decades. In fact, Lieutenant Governor William Scranton’s campaign for governor in 1986 proposed that the state should consider imposing tolls on at least portions of the major congested interstate highways in the Commonwealth: Routes 80, 81, 83, 78, and 95. This idea attracted no opposition at the time, and it was simply explained as a user’s fee.
Since the revenues that are raised on our federal interstate highways such as these can only be used on those highways, we will have the funding that is necessary to repair and maintain those freeways. Hence, these roads will become self-sufficient, and that fact will allow the Commonwealth to use the transportation money that it would have used on maintaining those roads on maintaining other state roads, bridges, and mass transit. Users fees have been part of government reform movements for many years, and it appears sensible to consider greater use of them in Pennsylvania. Whatever the aggregate fees might be for these roadways, one can at least safely assume that these fees will be less than the revenues that would be collected by private operators for any Turnpike privatization scheme.