CLEARFIELD – In order to further support the opposition for tolling Interstate 80, board members of the Clearfield County Recreation and Tourism Authority agreed that they must educate business partners about the effects of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission’s plans.
Sandy Fink-Barrett, executive director, said that she had received written correspondence from the Alliance to Stop I-80 Tolling. She said that the alliance was currently seeking financial support.
Barrett told the board that they had partnered with the alliance last August. She said that they then also endorsed a letter, supporting the alliance in its effort to end the commission’s tolling plan.
“What have we donated in the past,” asked Wilson Fisher, board chairman. Barrett said that they had never made a fiscal contribution.
Fisher stated that the board should continue its support of the alliance.
Joan Robinson-McMillen, board member and county commissioner, agreed.
“This will directly affect the area. It will hurt our hotels. It will hurt our businesses. It would devastate this area,” she said.
“We need to do something because (the commission’s efforts) are far from dead. People need to write their legislators and let them know how it will affect their community.”
McMillen said that she, personally, is sick of the area paying the price for its central location in the state.
“We must continue to say ‘no,’” she said.
Joe Kendrick, board member, inquired about the alliance’s fiscal standing.
Nancy Micks, board member, said that she didn’t believe the alliance was a non-profit organization. She said that from her understanding, it was operated by volunteers who hired a marketing firm.
“They’re making a push. It’s going to be a huge thing,” she said. She also said that the alliance members will not be able to afford to do the lobbying.
She said that the alliance seeks the fiscal backing, as they need it to continue their push. She also reminded the board that they typically remain apolitical. She emphasized, however, that it was “everyone’s private issue.”
As a result, McMillen encouraged the authority to inform and educate its partners of the concerns that surround the commission’s I-80 tolling plan.
Fisher, likewise, stated that the board should defer from fiscal support unless the commission’s efforts pick up heavily.
McMillen said that the county has not made a fiscal donation to the alliance. She indicated that they continued their own opposition with a June 4 letter to 14 senators and representatives who represent counties along the interstate corridor.
According to a previous GantDaily.com article, in their letter, the commissioners asked for “immediate action” to end the threat of tolling on the interstate by drafting legislation to rescind Act. 44.
“Specifically, we call for a non-partisan coalition of the PA House and Senate members, regardless of party affiliation, to join together as elected leaders to correct the mistake that was made when Act 44 was passed. We are requesting the repeal of Act 44 once and for all. The passage of time has shown the citizens, businesses, and local leaders along the I-80 corridor will not accept the tolling of this vital highway,” the letter reads.
The commissioners noted that while the United States Department of Transportation had already rejected a previous attempt by the Turnpike Commission to toll the interstate, the only people who have the authority to put a permanent end to “this threat to rural Pennsylvania” are the members of the state’s house and senate.
“We urge you to work with your colleagues along the I-80 corridor and draft legislation to overturn Act 44 and remove the Turnpike Commission’s authority to manage I-80. As long as Act 44 is law, the Turnpike Commission will continue their misguided efforts to toll I-80,” the commissioners wrote in their letter.
In conclusion, the commissioners indicated that they understood funding for highway construction and public transit is a difficult issue. They, however, said that tolling I-80 and extracting the costs for rural Pennsylvania was a “wrong decision” that must be rectified.