Governor invites bidders for Pennsylvania Turnpike

| 9/6/2007

Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell is talking about leasing the state turnpike again.

Despite the recent passage of a state transportation budget and funding mechanism for roads and bridges – one that included placing tolls on Interstate 80 – Rendell announced Wednesday, Sept. 5, that the door was still open for potential bidders to lease the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

Rendell asked potential bidders for a turnpike lease to submit their qualifications by Oct. 1 to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

“There’s a good chance this process will yield a sizeable bid for the right to operate and manage the Pennsylvania Turnpike,” Rendell stated. “If the high bid is large enough, I will take it to the General Assembly to consider whether it makes sense to adopt the required legislation needed to accept a bid and generate the extra revenue we still need to address bridge and other transportation needs.”

Rendell’s transportation budget included a plan for increased turnpike tolls and new tolls on I-80, coupled with bond-finance programs, to generate $945 million per year.

Rendell frequently cites a November 2006 report by the state-appointed Transportation Funding and Reform Commission that said the construction and upkeep of roads, bridges and transit programs amounts to $1.7 billion per year.

In December 2006, Rendell solicited preliminary interest in a possible turnpike bid, which generated 48 responses.

One of the responses came from the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, which proposed a schedule of higher turnpike tolls, in addition to new tolls on I-80, in lieu of the state leasing the asset to a private investor.

– By David Tanner, staff writer