Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Commonwealth Court rules against tolling of I-83, other bridges in PA

The South Bridge, from Riverfront Park in Harrisburg

A plan to toll the I-83 and other bridges around the commonwealth has run into a major roadblock, as a state court has ruled against the PennDOT proposal.

On Thursday, a panel of Commonwealth Court judges sided with three towns in western PA that sued the PA Department of Transportation over its Major Bridge P3 Program, which proposed tolling nine interstate bridges, including the I-83, or South Bridge, over the Susquehanna River at Harrisburg.

The decision, signed by Judge Ellen Ceisler, quashed the plan because, she wrote, PennDOT violated “provisions and guidelines set forth in the P3 Manual.”

Specifically, PennDOT did not state which bridges it would include when it sought authority to proceed with its tolling plan. Therefore, affected municipalities and the public lacked the opportunity to oppose the proposal or otherwise offer input, according to the order.

Last month, the Commonwealth Court had issued a temporary injunction against proceeding with the tolling plan.

Locally, the proposal has been widely panned by elected officials, a rare point of agreement across the city and suburbs, across levels of government and across political parties.

Officials cited numerous downsides to tolling the South Bridge, including economic hardship for local drivers, less commuting into Harrisburg from the suburbs and gridlock on city streets as drivers try to bypass the toll bridge.

The commonwealth had hoped to use toll revenue to help pay for a replacement of the failing, 62-year-old South Bridge, which PennDOT states has reached the end of its serviceable lifespan. PennDOT is currently planning a $1 billion new span with a construction start date of 2024.

Several local officials expressed satisfaction with the court’s decision.

“We are grateful for today’s decision and thank the municipalities and businesses who have worked toward this day,” said Harrisburg Regional Chamber & CREDC President & CEO Ryan Unger. “While tolls aren’t the answer to the necessary repairs for the 83 bridge, we will continue to work with our business and community partners and the state government to establish an equitable, community-centered funding solution that works for all.”

Read the Commonwealth Court decision here.

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