HARRISBURG — PennDOT and the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission have entered into a 50-year lease agreement for Interstate-80, part of the requirements of Act 44 passed by the General Assembly and signed into law by Governor Edward G. Rendell in July.
Under Act 44, the commission will transfer $83.3 billion to PennDOT for transportation projects throughout the state.
In addition, the commission has said it will generate an additional $33 billion over the next 50 years for I-80 improvements and other transportation projects, bringing the total investment to $116 billion.
As part of the financial plan approved by the General Assembly, PennDOT and the commission jointly filed a formal application with the Federal Highway Administration on Oct. 13 seeking federal authorization to toll and improve I-80. In the application, the commission said it plans to double the resources available for I-80 over the next decade to $2 billion as part of the initial phase of improvements to this vital Pennsylvania corridor.
“Governor Rendell and the General Assembly charged the turnpike with the responsibility of implementing this plan and we’ve made tremendous progress to date,” said Turnpike CEO Joe Brimmeier. “In addition to the two noteworthy milestones we’ve reached, the commission has already paid $62.5 million to PennDOT. By the end of this month, it will make an additional $229.2 million payment.”
In all, the turnpike will pay $750 million to PennDOT in the first year and annual payments will significantly increase each subsequent year.
“If we want to ensure a growing economy that continues to add jobs, we need a safe, viable transportation network funded by a long-term revenue stream,” said PennDOT Secretary Allen D. Biehler, P.E. “Act 44 provides significant funding for our transportation needs. Our partnership with the turnpike allows the commonwealth to improve its aging transportation infrastructure.”
Under the lease, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission will maintain I-80. The lease restricts the use of the tolls generated on I-80 to roads and bridges. Funds earmarked through Act 44 for 73 public transit agencies across the state would come from other available funds and resources of the turnpike, including toll increases and bond issues.
“This clause ensures motorists and neighbors in the corridor that I-80 toll income will be used only for roads and bridges — not public transit,” Brimmeier said.
Biehler added that PennDOT will use the revenue from I-80 tolls to tackle the backlog of road and bridge problems, including those in the I-80 corridor itself.
The turnpike is now scheduling a series of public meetings across the I-80 corridor and it has launched a Web site on Act 44 at www.paturnpike.com/i80.
A summary of the I-80 lease, along with a copy of the Federal Highway Administration application, will soon be posted to that site.