Pennsylvania House OKs privatization bill for roads, bridges

| 7/3/2008

While lawmakers in the Pennsylvania House were busy ripping a bill to authorize a lease of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, the state’s Senate passed a bill that would allow for public-private partnerships.

The House Transportation Committee wrapped up two days of hearings in late June on a bill that would allow private operators to take over control of the mainline of the turnpike and the Northeast Extension. After the legislation took a beating from opponents, Committee Chairman Joe Markosek, D-Monroeville, was noncommittal about when – or even if – his committee will vote on the bill, The Associated Press reported.

Meanwhile, the Senate voted unanimously to advance a bill to the House that would allow state government or public transportation authorities to partner with private groups to fund the construction, design, maintenance and management of state and local roads, bridges and more.

Sponsored by Sen. Roger Madigan, R-Bradford, the measure – SB1158 – would exclude handing over the Turnpike, unless the Legislature approves it.

“As we face the mounting pressures to simply maintain our existing transportation infrastructure, we must innovate and adapt to overcome our transportation challenges,” Madigan said in a written statement. Otherwise, road and bridge projects will not receive adequate funding, he said.

Others point out that the legislation doesn’t call for handing over control of existing roads. They say that only parts of highways that are expanded or improved would be eligible for privatization.

Madigan’s bill has moved to the House Appropriations Committee.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Pennsylvania in 2008, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor