I-80 lease signed BEFORE details were finalized?

HARRISBURG, PA — Today, more troubling information was revealed in the ongoing dispute over whether or not the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC) and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) were in compliance with Act 44’s deadline for the signing of the lease agreement between the two agencies—an agreement that has still not been released to the public.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer (“Lease’s timing adds to dispute over I-80 tolls,” October 19, 2007), PennDOT Secretary Allen Biehler and PTC chairman Mitchell Rubin signed the multi-billion dollar, half-century agreement before they reviewed and approved the final details of the contract.

“While missing the statutory deadline for signing the lease agreement is a violation of the law, it is a violation of the public’s trust and interest that the heads of these two public agencies signed off on a multi-billion dollar, 50-year binding contract before all the details were worked out,” said Matthew Brouillette, president of the Commonwealth Foundation.

“It is unconscionable that Secretary Biehler and Chairman Rubin ceded such decision-making power to unelected, unaccountable lawyers to work on the ‘details’,” Brouillette said. “We know that the devil is always in the details. Yet these public officials abdicated their fiduciary and administrative responsibilities by signing their names to a contract before it was even finalized—a contract that will be binding on the people of Pennsylvania for the next half century.”

The Commonwealth Foundation is currently exploring whether or not legal action can be taken to declare the lease agreement null and void for failure to comply with deadline in the law. Furthermore, the new revelation that the PennDOT Secretary and PTC Chairman signed the lease agreement before it was finalized will add even more support to the case.

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The Commonwealth Foundation is an independent, non-profit public policy research and educational institute based in Harrisburg, PA.

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