Pennsylvania lawmakers test turnpike lease with vote

| 6/19/2008

A lawmaker’s proposed amendment to an unrelated bill in the Pennsylvania House generated a buzz this week about the proposed lease of the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

Rep. John Maher, R-Allegheny, introduced the Turnpike amendment to an unrelated land-acquisition bill on Wednesday, June 18. The amendment would have green-lighted Gov. Ed Rendell’s proposal to lease the Turnpike to private investors.

House lawmakers soundly defeated Maher’s amendment with a vote of 185-12. Reasons for the vote varied from flat out opposition to the lease to the need for further discussion on an existing bill currently assigned to the Pennsylvania House Transportation Committee.

Rep. Dwight Evans, D-Pennsylvania and Rep. Steven Cappelli, R-Lycoming, filed HB2593 on June 5 to authorize the governor lease the Turnpike to private investors.

The Evans-Cappelli bill stemmed from Rendell’s announcement in mid-May that a Spanish-American consortium had bid $12.8 billion to run the turnpike for 75 years and keep the tolls. The lease would require the $12.8 billion be spent on highways, bridges and mass transit.

House lawmakers assigned HB2593 to the Transportation Committee, which has scheduled a public hearing to begin at 8:30 a.m., Thursday, June 26, in Room 140 in the Main Capitol building in Harrisburg, PA. The committee has also reserved the meeting room for a second day of testimony for the same time on June 27.

Although only invited speakers will be allowed to testify at the public hearing, a spokeswoman said the committee will also accept mailed and faxed testimony. Written comments are due to the committee by the time the hearing convenes on Thursday. Comments should specifically mention HB2593. For additional information, call (717) 783-1012.

Mail and fax comments to:

            Rep. Joseph F. Markosek
            314 Irvis Office Building
            PO Box 202025
            Harrisburg, PA 17120-2025
            Fax: (717) 705-1891

HB2593 includes a provision to repeal part of Act 44, the current state law that calls for Interstate 80 to be converted into a toll road. Click here to read HB2593.

– By David Tanner, staff writer