Gov. Ed Rendell has announced that multiple private investors have submitted bids to lease the Pennsylvania Turnpike for 75 years.
“This past Friday, May 9, we received multiple bids for a 75-year lease of the Pennsylvania Turnpike,” Rendell said during a press conference Monday, May 12.
Rendell did not release details or financial terms about the bidding firms. The governor did say he was extending the deadline to accept bids to Friday, May 16.
During the brief press conference, Rendell hinted that he has received three bids, but he later changed his statement to say it was “a multiple of three,” and could have been three, six, nine, 12 or 15.
Rendell said he intends to announce a winning bid on Monday, May 19. He will then ask state legislators to approve legislation to authorize a lease. The current session of the Pennsylvania General Assembly ends June 30.
Rendell continues to state his preference for leasing the turnpike to private investors when compared to the proposed conversion of Interstate 80 into a toll road.
Opponents of tolls on existing highways and highway privatization say both plans are flawed and put an undue burden on truckers and taxpayers.
In Pennsylvania, the current state law known as Act 44 calls for I-80 to become a toll road. Even though it is the law, the proposal requires federal approval that not been granted so far.
Rendell said because of the terms enacted in Act 44 – which he signed into law in July 2007 – he intends to ask U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters to expedite a decision on I-80 tolls so they can be implemented or cast aside.
If leasing the turnpike becomes a reality, Rendell said tolls on I-80 would not be necessary.
The governor said consideration for a proposed turnpike lease will be based on the price offered by the private firm or firms and not based on what country the investors are from.
“We’re required by the bid documents to take the highest bid,” he said. “I couldn’t choose an American bidder over a foreign company even if I wanted to, number one, and number two, none of these bids are without American participation because these teams put together groups of investors and none of those are without American participation.”
The current state of the economy is also a factor to consider, Rendell said, adding that a dip in the economy may produce a lower winning bid than it would have nine months ago.
“It’s not a great time to be doing this. Given that, I think these are good bids,” he said.
– By David Tanner, staff writer