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Carbon officials speak against bridge tolling plan

Carbon County officials aired their opinions on the state’s decision regarding tolling a bridge along I-80 over the Lehigh River as part of a larger project to raise money for infrastructure improvements.

On Thursday, Commissioners’ Chairman Wayne Nothstein spoke about a recent poll the County Commissioners Association completed with the board of directors over the state’s proposal to toll several bridges along I-80.

Nothstein said that the poll was showing near 100 percent support for a resolution opposing the bridge tolling plan.

He thinks the resolution will be passed by CCAP in the next few months.

“I have not seen one board member oppose this resolution,” Nothstein said. “It is not a comprehensive solution to the problem of revenue loss or transportation infrastructure.”

He said a comprehensive transportation study was completed but no one is talking about that, and instead the focus is on tolling I-80.

“How much will this project actually bring to the county and to the state for infrastructure since it is based on E-ZPass and toll by plate, the latter which has failed miserably in collections.”

Nothstein said it doesn’t address the diversion to state police to pay for their salaries. That budget comes in approximately at $800 million annually.

The tolling plan also does not cover the additional wear and tear county roads will face due to traffic finding alternate routes instead of going by toll.

“The commissioners are going on record today,” Nothstein said, adding that he is sure other counties will also follow suit regarding the resolution.

Carbon County will be directly affected by the proposal since a bridge over the Lehigh River is on the proposed tolling plan.

Commissioner Rocky Ahner echoed Nothstein’s thoughts, pointing out that the county already doesn’t have the needed money to properly fix county-owned bridges so they don’t need full replacements in the future.

“My point is, is where is all this infrastructure money?” he said, adding that they say it is going to tax the people who are working to make a living.

“They make out like it’s just one way so you just got to pay one way to get home or is it one way to get to work?” Ahner asked. “So which are you going to do? Are you going to go to work and not come home? It’s like they don’t really make sense.”

He also questioned what Carbon’s share of the tolls collected would be and how it would be distributed to counties.

He added that like Nothstein said regarding county roads, people will avoid the tolling, which means the county roads and bridges will deteriorate faster.

“So we are going to need more money to correct our bridges,” Ahner said. “… I’m against this.”

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is holding a meeting for public comment on the project from 3:30 to 7 p.m. on Wednesday at Mountain Laurel Resort in White Haven.

Ahner said he plans to supply his thoughts at that meeting.

An open house display on the project is planned at 3:30 p.m. with testimony beginning at 4:30.

All information from that meeting is now be available online at www.penndot.gov/i80LehighRiverBridge until June 2.

If you are unable to attend Wednesday’s meeting but would like to supply comment, written comments can be sent to PennDOT District 5, Attn: I-80 Over Lehigh River Bridge Project, 1002 Hamilton St., Allentown, PA 18101; or emailed to i80LehighRiverBridge@pa.gov.