State lawmaker calls for audit of Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission

| 2/19/2008

Pennsylvania state Rep. Scott Conklin, D-Centre County, is calling for an audit of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission.

A spokesman for Conklin said Tuesday, Feb. 19, that Conklin had seven co-sponsors and counting as he prepared to file a resolution in the General Assembly.

Conklin is taking action in response to a transportation funding measure called Act 44. Gov. Ed Rendell signed the measure in July 2007 to give the Turnpike Commission more power, including the authority to toll Interstate 80.

Conklin wants to make sure that additional power does not go unchecked.

“Act 44 gave the Turnpike Commission the authority to maintain highways, roads and bridges in all regions of Pennsylvania, and it is important that they have the resources and ability to carry through with these added responsibilities,” Conklin said in a prepared statement.

“This audit, which I believe should be conducted within the next six months, is necessary so that an undue burden is not placed on the taxpayers of this Commonwealth.”

The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission is a quasi-government entity created in 1937 to oversee the nation’s first modern toll road.

The commission currently oversees 514 miles of roadway that handle 156 million vehicle trips per year.

The state Senate oversees the commission and appoints those in charge.

Over the years, the commission offices have had their fair share of scandal. In 1999, Deborah Jubelirer, wife of state Sen. Robert Jubelirer, R-Altoona, resigned after nude photos were found in the Turnpike computer system. The photos were reportedly taken by a Turnpike computer technician. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Deborah Jubelirer had been making $66,500 per year as deputy director of the Turnpike marketing department.

Published reports indicate that the Turnpike Commission now employs 212 managers salaried at $67,000 or more per year.

Pennsylvania lawmakers continue to wage battle over ways to fund transportation.

Despite Gov. Rendell awarding the commission more power in Act 44, he continues to state publicly that he prefers leasing the Pennsylvania Turnpike to private investors – thus scaling down the commission – rather than implementing tolls on I-80.

– By David Tanner, staff writer