CLEARFIELD – Local leaders who have long opposed tolling Interstate 80 are today applauding the Federal Highway Administration’s decision to reject the latest application to do so.
“We believe it is an appropriate decision and are very, very grateful,” Clearfield County Commissioner John A. Sobel said. He said Gov. Edward G. Rendell has also indicated the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission’s third request would also be its last.
(If I-80 tolling had gone into effect,) it would’ve been devastating to the local community,” Sobel said. “Now, we have some breathing room. It’s great news for Clearfield County and for (all the communities located along the I-80 corridor).”
Commissioner Mark McCracken echoed the same thoughts as that of Sobel, stating they stood in opposition from day one. He said he applauded the decision by the US Department of Transportation and US DOT Secretary Ray LaHood to deny the application to toll I-80
“Along with my fellow Clearfield County Commissioners, we’ve worked in cooperation with federal and state officials, commissioners from other counties, business owners and citizens from counties and communities along the I-80 corridor to oppose the provisions in Act 44 to toll I-80,” McCracken said.
Holly Komonczi, interim director of the Clearfield County Recreation and Tourism Authority, said she, too, was “obviously thrilled” with the decision. She said tourism is important to local industries with two exits along I-80.
According to Komonczi, those exits are well-traveled due to a large number of hotels and restaurants nearby. She said many stay here, as it’s a “halfway point” to cities, such as Philadelphia, New York City and Baltimore.
“It’s an important segment of our industry. (Tolling I-80) would have hurt so many local businesses. We get a lot of traffic off I-80. Like I said, we’re the big halfway point,” she said. “Right now, we’re really trying to capitalize off that.
“It’s a tool for us and the focus of much of our marketing. It would have been devastating to the tourism-related businesses. I’ve already heard from our partnering businesses. We’re all excited and happy about how it turned out.”
But McCracken said he believes the battle isn’t over just yet. In fact, he said there is still work to be done if the transportation and construction issues are to be resolved for Pennsylvanians.
“While (Tuesday’s) announcement that the application to toll I-80 was rejected for the third time is a victory, there is still work to be done. We need to call on our elected officials in Harrisburg to take action to overturn the portions of Act 44 that call for tolling I-80. Additionally, we need to see those same officials find a solution that will provide adequate funding for the maintenance of our roads and bridges.”
Nancy Micks, of the DuBois Chamber of Commerce, said she was pleased with the decision for the sake of the businesses and people of rural Pennsylvania. She said it, however, certainly is not the end of the transportation woes.
“Those folks will not be singled out to have their areas and businesses tolled,” she said. She, however, noted “the law is still on the books,” meaning the issue could be re-visited at another time. She said the turnpike commission’s potential for continued borrowing also looms.
Micks concluded, “The most important thing now is working diligently with our legislators expecting to find a solution to our transportation issues that is responsible to and for all of us.”