Jennifer D. Wade Journal

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NOW It's a Story

How big is the debate over whether to put tolls on Interstate 80 through Pennsylvania?  Big enough that the New York Times has now taken notice.  THIS article appeared in Sunday's paper.

The article makes two basic points.  One is that the two congressmen from PA who are leading the effort to stop the toll plan increasingly seem to be on their own.  The bill still has to go through a house-sen. conference committee, and the article cites Sens. Casey and Specter as saying the feds should stay out of the state's business.

The second point the article makes is that if the tolls on 80 go ahead in PA, it may be just the beginning of a drive to toll highways around the country.  Some academic type is quoted as saying that tolls are "the wave of the future."  He calls it the "user principle."  I don't doubt that he is right.  Increasingly, I think, states (and maybe even counties) will be left to fund their own road systems because money from the feds just won't be there.  You still won't be able to walk into a grocery store in PA and buy beer, but, dammit, we'll be on the cutting edge of tolling!

Another facet of the article that I found interesting is that the reporter contacted representatives of a major shopping center in western PA to talk about the impact tolls might have.  Not that there's anything wrong with that, but I was surprised the paper didn't go for reaction from someplace a little closer to New York - like the Poconos.  Maybe since the irate congressmen are generally from western PA, the reporter kept the story centered there.

Anyway, this is a big issue and I'll be interested to see how it all shakes out.

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