HARRISBURG, Pa. (ErieNewsNow) - PennDOT is searching for new ways to fund infrastructure projects after their bridge tolling plan was shot down earlier this month. 

The plan was to use tolling revenue collected on nine major bridges to pay back contractors over a thirty-year period for their reconstruction. 

The “Major Bridge" Public Private Partnership (P3) plan was one that saw major opposition since gaining traction in Nov. 2020. 

“We're really pleased that policymakers recognize that tolling is just not the way to fund transportation infrastructure,” said Rebecca Oyler, President of the Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association. 

Two Commonwealth Court decisions, which sided against the department, paved the way for legislation, now Act 84, ultimately putting an end to bridge tolls earlier this month.  

“As per that law, that is no longer able to continue,” said PennDOT Acting Executive Deputy Secretary Melissa Batula. 

 “We have to figure out how we're going to fund highways and bridges. The gasoline and diesel tax is just not going to do it,” said Gov. Tom Wolf earlier this month. 

It's back to the drawing board for PennDOT, but Batula says time is not on their side. 

“We have no shortage of needed projects across the state,” said Batula. 

Even with a $300 million total increase for the department in the new budget, Batula says it's just a drop in the bucket.  

“Just for the highway and bridge side, you're still at that $8 billion. We really haven't started plugging away at that gap,” said Batula. 

She says PennDOT is exploring other options, like a mileage-based user fee or package delivery fee.  

“I think there's a lot of promise in those,” said Batula. 

The funding crisis leaves PennDOT at a fork in the road: to take designated funding for future projects and use it now; or vice versa. 

“It's going to come at the expense of current projects or future projects, and there's really no way around that. You're kind of using tomorrow's dollars to fund today's problems,” said Batula. “I do get really worried about spending too much of the future dollars. There're going to be more bridges that are becoming critical in the next ten years. If we lock up all those future dollars now, we're just really kicking that can down and causing even more challenges to the next generation of transportation users, really our kids,” Batula added. 

Batula says the new budget and federal infrastructure dollars will help for now, but she’s concerned about the future impact of no bridge toll revenue, especially for those nine major bridges. 

“That being said, it's not like it's going to be enough to reduce, to really cover the funds that were anticipated to be brought in through the toll revenue, specific for these nine bridges,” said Batula. 

Opponents agree roads and bridges are in distress, but argue that tolling bridges at the expense of taxpayers who are already biting the bullet on higher prices is not the path forward.  

“The last thing we needed was additional tolls, additional costs for driving on our highways,” said Oyler. “Existing public infrastructure should not be tolled.”