HARRISBURG - Pennsylvania is making a new push to get federal approval for tolls on Interstate 80, the heavily used route that bisects the state for more than 300 miles, from Ohio to New Jersey.
The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission and state highway department submitted supplemental materials late Thursday to the Federal Highway Administration that are designed to answer questions about the financial structure of a proposal that has generated spirited opposition in the northern part of the state.
The agencies provided a consultant's analysis that the value of the transaction would be in line with recent highway leases elsewhere in North America. The proposal calls for PennDot to lease the roadway to the turnpike, which would operate the tolls.
They also added information about how much money will be needed to maintain Pennsylvania's interstates, current conditions on I-80 and details about the nine potential locations for toll collection sites.
"We're hopeful that we've provided enough information for them to make a good decision," turnpike spokesman Carl DeFebo said Friday. "If it's not enough, we certainly will be providing more, whatever we need, to address their concerns."
I-80 tolls are a key component of a 2007 state law designed to generate billions of dollars to fix roads and bridges and subsidize mass transit systems. That law, which also authorized higher tolls along the existing turnpike system, has already provided more than $2 billion in new transportation money, but revenues will drop sharply in July without the I-80 tolls.
According to the Turnpike Commission, the 2007 law will generate $83 billion over 50 years with the I-80 tolls, but $24 billion without them.
About a year ago, the Federal Highway Administration halted the I-80 tolling plan, saying it was "unable to move the application forward" and raising a number of questions.
The commission and PennDot hope that the additional information will revive the proposal, although a spokeswoman for Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told The Associated Press two weeks ago that he "has said tolling is a good option to consider for new roads but prefers not to toll existing roads."
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Friday that Gov. Rendell met recently with LaHood to lobby for approval of the tolls.
Residents and businesses along I-80 have organized opposition to the tolling proposal, saying it could drive businesses out of the region, divert traffic onto adjacent roads and that it is unfair to add fees to a road that has been free since it opened decades ago.
I-80 carries some of the Pennsylvania's heaviest truck volume, about 10,000 trucks a day along most of its length, and about 60 percent of its freight traffic ends up in other states, according to the supplemental materials.
On the Web:
Tolling proposal: www.paturnpike.com/i-80