Pennsylvania bill would abolish 'corruption-infested' turnpike commission

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 6/13/2013

If a Pennsylvania state lawmaker gets her way the state Department of Transportation would oversee all roadways in the state.

Rep. Donna Oberlander, R-Clarion/Armstrong, introduced a bill that would abolish the “corruption-infested” Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission.

Oberlander said changes are needed following a 44-month grand jury investigation into the commission run by nine executives. The investigation documented corruption and bribery.

“We have to clean our own house and make sure the money that is being collected is being done in a responsible way. This is the first step to make sure corruption is not part of that and that transparency and accountability are,” Oberlander said in prepared remarks.

HB1197 would shift all of the turnpike’s operations, maintenance, construction and other responsibilities to PennDOT to run the 545-mile toll road. Issuance and payment of bonds would also be shifted to the state treasurer.

Rep. Mike Vereb, R-Montgomery, encouraged lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to act to get rid of the commission.

“This tumor is beyond radiation,” he said.

In the turnpike’s place, the Bureau of Toll Administration would be created within PennDOT to maintain and operate the turnpike. PennDOT would get all tolls and other money payable to the commission.

A committee including the governor would also be set up to deal with the agency’s debt transfer to PennDOT.

The bill is awaiting consideration in the House Transportation Committee.

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