If it was surprising that Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell
received 48 letters from companies expressing interest in privatizing the
state's east-west turnpike, it was even more surprising that the Pennsylvania
Turnpike Commission submitted one of the letters.
But there's a reason the commission did that, according to
recent news reports.
The five-member commission would rather not see the 537-mile
Turnpike leased to private companies. Instead, commissioners are suggesting
that state lawmakers authorize Interstate 80 to become a toll road and allow
the commission to operate it.
Turnpike commissioners would rather see the revenue remain
within the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation system and not go to the
Commissioners hired a lobbyist earlier this week to pursue
that scenario, according to a report in the Pittsburgh
Revenue from I-80 tolls would cut into a growing gap in
funding for transportation projects - a gap that Gov. Rendell has said could be
fixed by leasing the turnpike to private investors for billions of dollars.
Tolls on I-80, according to a statement by Pennsylvania
Turnpike Commission CEO Joe Brimmeier, could fetch "tens of millions of dollars"
per year, the Post-Gazette reported.
Commissioners say it's worth a shot. Any possible solutions
for Pennsylvania would have to go through the state Legislature.