It’s not the first time someone in Harrisburg has called for abolishing the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, but this plan comes on the heels of a grand jury corruption indictment.
House Bill 1197 would transfer all Turnpike operations to PennDOT. A new Bureau of Toll Administration would be created, with a deputy secretary to oversee it. The state would also assume the turnpike’s debt and a committee would be appointed to look at ways to retire it.
Representative Donna Oberlander says the commission is outdated and in order to address Pennsylvania’s critical transportation funding issue, the state must eliminate all inefficiencies and excess. She says workers would be protected; the bill calls for honoring all collective bargaining agreements in effect at the time of the transfer, meaning union contracts would remain intact.
Representative Mike Vereb cited the recent grand jury indictments charging pay to play corruption in the turnpike’s former administration. He says things have changed, the turnpike has restored a different style of leadership, but he suggests “this tumor is beyond radiation”.
Vereb says with this “bible” handed to them by the attorney general and former attorney general, they have a reason, goal and mission; and now all they need is some political courage.
Representative Jim Christiana says it’s important to look at all aspects of transportation as the state deals with the critical issue of funding. He says before we can ask for more revenue, we have to make sure we’re spending transportation dollars as efficiently and effectively as possible.
The Turnpike Commission issued a response, saying it has not taken a position on a proposal to merge with PennDOT. The release points out that reforms have been undertaken and the Turnpike has been working closer with PennDOT in recent years.