March 19–A consortium comprised mostly of commercial truck drivers has sued the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission and other state agencies, alleging that annual toll increases on the road are excessive and unfairly burden commercial vehicles.
The lawsuit filed last week specifically mentions the turnpike commission as well as the state Department of Transportation and Gov. Tom Wolf, among others.
The 43-page document spells out clearly why the truckers are upset: Tolls on the 359-mile roadway have increased by more than 200 percent since 2006, and tolls are likely going to keep increasing for the foreseeable future.
In addition, the lawsuit alleges that despite being only 15 percent of total annual traffic on the turnpike, commercial vehicles pay about half of the annual toll revenues generated by the turnpike. To that end, the plaintiffs alleged trucks generated $43 million in toll revenue in 2016.
In the lawsuit, the truckers are asking for rollbacks of future toll increases, along with other unspecified damages.
“The tolls imposed by Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission far exceed the value of the use of the facilities or services conferred on the operators of motor vehicles using the Pennsylvania Turnpike and far exceed the costs incurred to operate and maintain the Pennsylvania Turnpike System,” the lawsuit states.
The turnpike commission has increased tolls each year for the past decade, and the parties in the lawsuit allege that such increases are having a negative effect on both business and leisure travelers who’d rather find alternate routes than pay skyrocketing tolls.
Finally, the lawsuit rails against a current state law that mandates the turnpike commission pay an annual fee to PennDOT to help fund public transit across the state, as well as other transportation projects.
As of the beginning of this year, the parties in the lawsuit claim the turnpike commission has paid nearly $6 billion to PennDOT in the last decade, which is at least in part responsible for continually increasing tolls on the road.
The group claims that the state forcing the turnpike commission to subsidize public transit is unconstitutional, and the parties in the lawsuit have asked for a $6 billion refund in all of the money sent to PennDOT under state law.
Rich Kirkpatrick, a spokesman for PennDOT, said the agency is reviewing the lawsuit and had no additional comments Monday. A spokesman for the turnpike commission also declined to comment on the litigation.
The lawsuit, filed on behalf of the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association, Inc., the National Motorists Association, and several trucking firms, was filed in Harrisburg last week by a Washington, D.C.-based law firm representing the plaintiffs.
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