Act 44 lawsuit could affect 44 Port Authority projects
A lawsuit pending in federal district court in Pennsylvania filed by truckers against the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission over the rates and use of turnpike tolls as directed by Act 44 of 2007 might affect the Port Authority’s capital budget.
The lawsuit argues that by raising tolls year-after-year and handing the money over to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) for “non-Turnpike-related state projects” there is “an undue burden on interstate commerce in violation of Article I, Section 8, Clause 3 of the U.S. Constitution” and the plaintiffs are seeking relief.
Act 44, as amended by Act 89, requires the Turnpike Commission to make payments to PennDOT totaling $9.65 billion through 2057. The annual payment is scheduled to decrease from $450 million to $50 million in fiscal year 2022-23. While the lawsuit is pending the turnpike has not made two quarterly payments to PennDOT and, in turn, the money from the Commission and PennDOT to other entities, including the Port Authority, has been delayed.
The capital budget adopted in June for the Port Authority’s current fiscal year is $145.7 million; $104.9 million of it is provided for by state sources. The 44 capital projects proposed to be put on hold total $65 million, according to a newspaper article. An authority committee considered the amendments to the budgets last week and the entire board is supposed to vote in early December. Interestingly the article noted that SEPTA (Philadelphia’s transit agency) does not anticipate putting anything on hold even though it receives subsidies through the Act 44 scheme.
If the truckers’ association wins its suit against the Turnpike Commission that stops or rolls back tolls, the state will once again be looking for alternative sources of revenue to subsidize mass transit.