WASHINGTON, D.C. – Members of the Pennsylvania Congressional Delegation, today at a briefing on Capitol Hill, had an opportunity to learn how the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) plans to evaluate the current application from the Turnpike Commission to toll Interstate 80.
“I used the opportunity to make sure FHWA Administrator Victor Mendez is aware of my staunch opposition to this proposal,” said U.S. Representative Glenn `GT’ Thompson, R-Howard. Thompson also delivered to Mendez, a three-inch thick binder of press articles from the state on the differing opinions and the recent scandals surrounding the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, who, if the application is approved, would manage and toll I-80.
Representatives Thompson, Kathy Dahlkemper, Paul Kanjorski and Chris Carney on November 3rd invited Administrator Mendez to meet with the delegation to explain the complicated process of evaluating the Turnpike’s application. The FHWA has turned down the state’s two previous applications.
The letter of invitation was sent to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who then asked Administrator Mendez to respond to the representatives.
“While we have been very public in our opposition to tolling Interstate 80, given the precedent setting nature of Pennsylvania’s proposal, we respectfully request that your key policy advisors and counsel be made available for a bipartisan briefing of the Pennsylvania Congressional Delegation on the process the Federal Highway Administration’s Tolling and Pricing team will use to determine the validity of the PTC/PennDOT application for tolling,” the letter reads.
Seven members of the 19-member delegation attended the meeting. They were Representatives Thompson, Dahlkemper, Kanjorski, Carney, Jim Gerlach, Bob Brady and Bill Shuster. Mendez told the group:
“We are not predisposed to one decision over another. Our intent is to follow the law the U.S. Congress put in front of us.”
The Administrator was asked if he had a timetable for a decision, he responded: “We don’t have a projected time frame. We must meet the intent of the law and the details. I have instructed our teams to expedite but to be deliberate. Don’t push too quickly and get the wrong answer.”
One of Mendez’s policy advisors explained that the application must show that “the only way the state could reconstruct or rehabilitate was through tolling.”
Kanjorski told Mendez that he did not think the state had exhausted all other possibilities.
Thompson will be keeping an open dialogue with the FHWA as this process moves forward. “Today’s meeting has only cracked the surface of this debate,” said Thompson.