The Lead

Trucker lawsuit against Pa. Turnpike that threatened public transit funding dismissed

By: - April 4, 2019 4:08 pm

A federal judge on Thursday dismissed a lawsuit that groups representing truck drivers and motorists brought against the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission over rising tolls used to fund public transit.

In a 56-page decision, Middle District of Pennsylvania Judge Yvette Kane wrote that the plaintiffs did not prove the Turnpike Commission is violating the Constitution’s commerce clause and the protected right to travel by increasing tolls, in part, to make $450 million yearly payments to the state Department of Transportation.

Marc Levy, of the Associated Press, first noted the dismissal on Twitter.

During budget hearings in March, state Transportation Secretary Leslie Richards raised alarm bells about the impact a judgment against the commission would have on Pennsylvania’s public transit systems.

Losing the suit “holds serious consequences for transit agencies across the state and the Amtrak service Pennsylvania subsidizes,” Richards said in testimony to the House Appropriations Committee. Richards said at the time a missed July 1 payment from the Turnpike Commission would mean PennDOT wouldn’t be able to meet its obligations to transit agencies.

An attorney for the plaintiffs told the AP they will appeal the decision. One of the plaintiffs includes failed state House candidate Frank Scavo, who apologized during the campaign for Islamophobic social media posts.

The Turnpike Commission is carrying $11.8 billion in debt, despite rising toll costs. In a recent audit, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale recommended the Legislature reconsider the mandated payments from the commission to PennDOT.

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Sarah Anne Hughes
Sarah Anne Hughes

Associate Editor Sarah Anne Hughes covers the governor and Pennsylvania's agencies. Before joining the Capital-Star, she was the state capitol reporter for Billy Penn and The Incline, and a 2018 corps member for Report for America. She was previously managing editor of Washington City Paper, editor-in-chief of DCist, and a national blogger for The Washington Post.