Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission's days numbered?

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 9/26/2013

Pennsylvania state lawmakers returned to work this week for the fall session. One issue that could be discussed in the coming weeks would put the state Department of Transportation in charge of all roadways in the state.

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

Oberlander has 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 previously said in prepared remarks.

The commission drew additional ire recently when another round of toll increases was announced. Starting in January 2014, cash customers will pay 12 percent more and E-ZPass customers will pay an extra 2 percent. Truckers paying cash will need nearly $200 to make the full-length trip.

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.

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 that includes the governor would also be set up to deal with the agency’s debt transfer to PennDOT.

The bill awaits consideration in the House Transportation Committee.

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