Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission 'absolutely supports' sunset of Act 44

By David Tanner, Land Line associate editor | Thursday, February 07, 2013

A spokesman for the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission says the agency “absolutely supports” a proposed sunset of Act 44 that appears in Gov. Tom Corbett’s budget proposal for the state.

The controversial Act 44 of 2007, signed by then-Gov. Ed Rendell, requires the turnpike to pay $450 million each year in toll proceeds to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. Almost half of that money pays for mass transit programs in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh while the other half pays for road and bridge projects unrelated to the turnpike.

The toll provision of Act 44 – which relied on a failed attempt to toll Interstate 80 – was written to last through 2057, but Corbett’s budget proposal calls for repeal in the year 2023.

“The Turnpike Commission absolutely supports shortening the duration of Act 44 to ease the financial load on the Pennsylvania Turnpike,” spokesman Carl DeFebo said in a written statement released to Land Line.

“Shortening the lifespan of Act 44 would undoubtedly reduce the commission’s anticipated debt associated with Act 44. (It wouldn’t affect outstanding debt, as that’s for Act 44 payments already made.),” he said.

Under Act 44, the Pennsylvania Turnpike has increased tolls for five straight years to keep up with payments to the state and pay down construction debts.

The question of what will happen to toll rates after Act 44 is gone is admittedly a tough one at this stage, DeFebo said.

“While the commission hasn’t had the opportunity to determine the exact effect it would have on toll rates, we can say that shortening the timeframe is expected to have a positive, long-term impact on the extent or frequency of future toll increases – but it wouldn’t necessarily have an immediate effect.”

As things stand right now, the agency is on pace to increase tolls 3 to 5 percent per year over the next 15 years to keep up with debt payments and the Act 44 obligations.

Corbett’s budget proposal requires legislative approval.

OOIDA has advocated to repeal Act 44 since the law was created.

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