Judge bars Pennsylvania Department of Transportation plans to toll I-79, 8 other state bridges

PENNSYLVANIA — A Commonwealth Court judge granted a preliminary injunction that essentially bars the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation from moving forward with plans to toll Interstate 79 and eight other bridges across the state.

PennDOT revealed a private-public partnership to toll a section of I-79 near Bridgeville to raise money to repair and replace the bridges and interchanges. It also proposed a similar plan for eight other state bridges.

The judge issued the ruling Wednesday in a case that was brought forth by Cumberland County about the tolling of Interstate 83.

Cumberland County said the state failed to follow the proper steps to approve the partnership. The judge agreed with the county, issuing the ruling that bans PennDOT from taking any further action with the plans to toll Interstate 83 and the eight other bridges, including the one in Bridgeville.

Jason Ortitay is a Republican state representative who has been fighting against PennDOT’s plan to toll drivers.

“Nobody wants to pay a toll,” Ortitay tells Channel 11. “This was a risky process and a risky bet.”

Rep. Ortitay said tolls would only drive people off I-79 and onto Washington Pike, creating even more of a congested mess through Bridgeville.

“If 20,000 cars decide to divert from 79 to local roads, the local municipalities have to start preparing that for EMS services, for repairs for accidents,” Ortitay adds. “That could cost millions of dollars that taxpayers are on the hook for.”

Pete Linko started a petition pushing back against tolls, which has already gained 15,000 signatures. He called Wednesday’s court decision a major win and said he will not stop fighting.

“People who care are fighting and people are saying enough is enough,” Linko tells Channel 11. “They want their tax dollars respected. What they’re saying ultimately is a win for taxpayers that are already burdened with the third-highest gas tax in the country and are struggling just to fill up the tank.”

A spokesperson for PennDOT says the department is reviewing the opinion.