Pa. Turnpike to become most expensive long toll road in nation

With a toll increase in January, the Pennsylvania Turnpike is set to become the most expensive toll road in America at 8.5 cents per mile, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Unsurprisingly, this is not a designation that Turnpike Commission CEO Joseph Brimmeier agrees with, and he testified to that effect this morning.

Who's right? Well, they both are, as the PG explains:

Shorter toll facilities, including highway spurs and bridges, typically have higher per-mile costs. A March survey by the Pennsylvania Turnpike found 10 facilities with per-mile rates of 27.8 cents or more, including a 6-mile highway in California whose users pay 45.8 cents per mile.

The Turnpike isn't the most expensive toll road in the nation, but it is the most expensive long toll road in the nation.

So why is the turnpike so expensive? It all comes back to tolling I-80:

The Pennsylvania Turnpike has ascended to the top among longer toll roads largely because of a 2007 state law requiring it to help fund non-turnpike transportation programs.

The law was passed with the expectation that I-80 tolls would make up a significant portion of the money, and is still in effect.

Despite the Federal Highway Administration's rejection of I-80 tolls this spring, the turnpike is required to pay PennDOT $450 million per year for the next 47 years, and to raise tolls as necessary to meet all of its funding obligations.

Gov. Rendell has made transportation funding a priority in his final year in office, and two weeks ago called on the legislature to change the law:

"The legislature should fix this now, not only for next year but for years down the road."

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