Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Penndot to Continue Transit Subsidies $112.5M Payment from Pa Turnpike Held Up by Lawsuit

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Penndot to Continue Transit Subsidies $112.5M Payment from Pa Turnpike Held Up by Lawsuit

Article excerpt

Despite not receiving a $112.5 million payment from the Pennsylvania Turnpike for the second quarter in a row, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation said Thursday it will continue to support transit agencies across the state.

PennDOT said it has been able to continue its regular subsidy payments to transit agencies by using reserve funds and delaying its own capital projects so that no local service has been reduced so far.

Turnpike CEO Mark Compton said Wednesday the agency would not make the second-quarter payment because a pending federal lawsuit by truckers has made it impossible for the agency to borrow money for the payment. The Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association Inc. and the National Motorists Association claimed in a March lawsuit that the turnpike is violating federal law by using tolls for something other than road maintenance and expansion.

"We will continue to defer payments until the lawsuit is decided in our favor," Mr. Compton said. "We don't have the money in our coffers."

Under a system that goes back to former Gov. Ed Rendell's attempt to charge tolls on Interstate 80, the turnpike is required to pay PennDOT $450 million a year to help cover the cost of public transportation ($400 million) and intermodal projects ($50 million) across the state. That is scheduled to be reduced to $50 million a year in 2023.

But because of the lawsuit over the use of toll money, bond companies won't allow the turnpike to borrow the money for the payments at a reasonable interest rate. The turnpike commission approved a plan in August to defer the payments through the end of the state fiscal year in June unless it wins the lawsuit.

U.S. District Judge Yvette Kane of the Middle District of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg is considering motions in the case and no trial date has been set.

PennDOT press secretary Erin Waters-Trasatt said in an email that the department is committed to maintaining funding to transit agencies and working with agencies to prevent any interference with operations or capital projects. …

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