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Truckers’ suit against Pa. Turnpike fees dismissed on appeal

Traffic Jam on Pa. Turnpike. (Getty Images) –

The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit filed by a trucking association over the use of turnpike tolls to fund mass transit in Pennsylvania.

A state law known as Act 44 requires the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission to make annual payments of $450 million to PennDOT to fund public transportation projects. The commission has paid $4.6 billion to PennDOT to date.

The requirement has led the turnpike commission to hike tolls each year for the past 11 years. Prior to that the turnpike had only hiked tolls five times over the last 64 years.

The Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association Inc. and other plaintiffs sued the state and the turnpike commission, claiming it was unfair to force the turnpike commission to contribute to non-toll-road repairs and transit projects in the state.

The trucking group claimed that truck drivers account for about half of the tolls collected by the turnpike each year and have been facing an unfair burden for funding projects that were not related to their toll-road use.

According to the suit, the plaintiffs contended that the extra funds were being used for projects that disproportionately benefit local interests and that the high tolls deterred non-Pennsylvanians from using the turnpike.

The appeals court upheld the decision by U.S. District Judge Yvette Kane of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, who ruled that the plaintiffs failed to prove that the payment arrangement violated their constitutional right to travel.

It said in its ruling that Congress has permitted state authorities to use tolls for non-turnpike purposes, and that the plaintiff’s right to travel had not been infringed.

Writer Stacy Wescoe has her finger on the pulse of the business community in the Greater Lehigh Valley and keeps you up-to-date with technology and trends, plus what coworkers and competitors are talking about around the water cooler — and on social media. She can be reached at stacyw@lvb.com or 610-807-9619, ext. 4104. Follow her on Twitter and on Facebook.

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