Pennsylvania Turnpike bid deadline postponed

| 5/1/2008

Gov. Ed Rendell’s self-imposed due date of April 30 to receive bids and name the top bidder in his proposal to lease the Pennsylvania Turnpike has come and gone.

Rendell spokesman Chuck Ardo said the bidding process has been delayed. He said the governor received no bids by April 30 because bidders anticipated the delay and “did not want to show their hand early.”

“We have delayed the due date for bids by a short time in anticipation of getting a better bid,” Ardo told Land Line on Wednesday, April 30. “We expect to have an announcement within a week or two.”

Rendell was hoping to present a winning bid to state lawmakers in an effort to get enabling legislation passed through the Pennsylvania General Assembly before the legislative session ends June 30.

The governor is still hoping to meet that deadline.

If the legislature approves the deal, the top bidder in Rendell’s plan would pocket the toll revenue from the Pennsylvania Turnpike for 75 years in exchange for a large up-front payment to the state. Rendell asked bidders to include offers for up-front payments to the state, but did not specify a minimum amount.

In 2007, Pennsylvania’s financial advisory firm Morgan Stanley estimated that a long-term lease of the Pennsylvania Turnpike could generate $1.6 billion per year in transportation funding. An up-front payment could produce $12 billion to $18 billion, analysts have figured.

The Transportation Funding and Reform Commission, which Rendell created in 2005, reported in November 2006 that unmet transportation needs in Pennsylvania add up to $1.7 billion per year.

Rendell proposed a turnpike lease plan in late 2006, but state lawmakers did not approve legislation in 2007 to support it. That’s when lawmakers, including Rendell, turned their attention to tolling Interstate 80.

When the I-80 toll proposal got held up at the federal level, the governor turned his attention back to leasing the turnpike.

– By David Tanner, staff writer