It's bad when taxpayer money gets spent inefficiently. It's really bad when it gets straight up flushed down the toilet.
Thus do we lament this report from the PA Independent that the state spent $24 million on its failed attempt to institute tolling on I-80. The plan needed approval from the feds, which it didn't get -- but not before Pennsylvania spent lots of money on engineering and planning work.
To be fair to the state, it does seem like the feds may have been less than conscientious here -- apparently the Federal Highway Administration required detailed studies be done, only to reject the project because of a feature that was present all along. Still, we can't help but draw a connection between this and another recent episode of taxpayers suffering "sunk costs" -- the new Family Court building. No, there was no double dealing here, and we have no sense, as of this writing, of whether the costs incurred for the engineering and planning work were reasonable. But the tolling debacle might still reflect some of the attitude present in Chief Justice Castille's now-famous description of his use of taxpayer money in the Family Court case: "I took a roll of the dice." With $24 million gone, we have to ask: Was the state too willing to take a gamble here too? And is it too easy to gamble with taxpayers' money?