Bill would abolish Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission

| 12/9/2009

State Rep. Mike Vereb wants to abolish the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission and shift turnpike operations to the state DOT.

Vereb, a Republican representing Montgomery County, was joined by other members of the Republican caucus in unveiling House Bill 2134 on Tuesday, Dec. 8.

Vereb said the Turnpike Commission is antiquated and top-heavy and has been “shrouded in a cloud of corruption and scandal” in the wake of a corruption trial of former state Sen. Victor Fumo, and “unprofessional conduct” of former Turnpike Commission Chairman Mitchell Rubin.

“We need to put an end to the backroom politics-as-usual mentality and the public perception that all state government is corrupt,” Vereb said. He called it “unacceptable” for the state to carry on with the Turnpike’s legacy.

Turnpike officials did not address the points in Vereb’s statements directly, but pointed out that Vereb was among those who voted in favor of Act 44 in 2007. The controversial law directed the commission to pursue tolls on Interstate 80. It also put the commission on the hook to hand over billions to the state DOT over time.

“He voted for Act 44 which directed the turnpike to provide the funding,” Turnpike Commission Spokesman Bill Capone told Land Line.

“He raised criticism about the turnpike raising tolls last January, but we raised the tolls in January to meet the rental payments outlined in Act 44.”

If Vereb’s bill were to pass, Pennsylvania Turnpike operations would fall to a deputy secretary of toll administration within the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. The position would require a candidate to have a civil engineering degree and “at least 10 years’ experience designing and building highways,” Vereb said in a statement.

Pennsylvania is not the only state looking at transportation and turnpike reform. Earlier this year in Massachusetts, transportation reform led to the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority being abolished and rolled into the state’s transportation agency.

– By David Tanner, staff writer