With a new federal transportation bill brewing in committee, local legislators continue to lobby for toll credit language to finance the completion of Route 219.
Sen. Bob Casey sent a letter Thursday to the conference committee charged with coming to a compromise on the House- and Senate-backed versions of the bill.
He urged members to pass a bill that repeals the ban on using toll credits as matching funds for roads in the Appalachian Development Highway System. Approximately $35 million in matching funds is needed to complete Route 219 from Somerset to Meyersdale.
“Historically, the ability of states to utilize toll credits to cover non-federal cost shares has increased the flexibility of state transportation finance programs, enabled states to more effectively utilize existing resources and encouraged investment in infrastructure,” he added. “Repealing the prohibition on using toll credits toward non-federal shares of ADHS projects would unlock existing unspent balances.”
In addition, Casey called for a reduction in the nonfederal cost share of ADHS projects. He said he wants this down from 20 percent to 5 percent.
According to Casey press secretary John Rizzo, the last-minute letter is an attempt to influence the committee’s compromise version of the bill, which could come to vote as early as next week.
A spokesman for U.S. Rep. Mark Critz, D-Johnstown — who has also written letters in support of toll credits — agreed that this remains a critical issue.
“Repealing the current toll-credit language, and finishing Route 219, is a top priority for congressman Critz,” spokesman Matt Mazonkey said in an email. “Both the House and Senate included a repeal of the toll credit language in their respective bills, and we’re hopeful that the final package will include it as well.
“We’ve waited too long for a new transportation bill, and it’s absolutely critical for Congress to pass one this year.”
States earn toll credits for spending money to improve toll roads such as the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Toll credit language had been in earlier transportation bills, but was removed in 2006.