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The most clever bait-and-switch ever, or wishful thinking

December 20, 2009 - Mike Maneval

The Federal Highway Administration is reconsidering a proposal to bring tolls to Interstate 80, and opponents are presenting a strong case against the idea again. The Alliance to Stop I-80 Tolling says the move will hurt Pennsylvania's economy on its Web site. U.S. Rep. Glenn "GT" Thompson, R-Howard, says tolls on I-80 would "detour" prosperity around Pennsylvania.

And common sense is on the opponents' side. Tolling would be another, particularly burdensome business expense for employers along the east-west corridor and would drain consumers of disposable income that otherwise would improve their financial security or be spent in stores and businesses across northern Pennsylvania.

Which is why I cross my fingers and vainly hope the proposal to toll Interstate 80 is a "head-fake," if you will, a clever bait-and-switch tactic. What I hope is that the real agenda of this stupid proposal to soak average motorists using I-80 is to draw officials, organizations and institutions to outline the slam-dunk case against tolling - and then deploy that case against the Turnpike. Not the management of the Turnpike as part of some scheme to transfer control of fee-collection to foreign entities; I want to see the solid facts used to justify toll-free driving for us applied to our neighbors in the state's southern reaches.

For, if tolling would be a bane to the economic development of the I-80 corridor, abolition of tolling on the Turnpike would be a boon, a measure of economic relief to businesses along the now-tolled road that also improves the region's ability to recruit more development. And if it is "fundamentally unfair" to expect us to pay tolls, as the Alliance suggests, then it is just as unfair to expect the motorists who depend on the Turnpike to pay tolls.


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