Pennsylvania could become policy innovator with turnpike lease

The Wall Street Journal had a fairly lengthy cover story on the proposal to lease the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Among the points addressed

1) Other states are looking to PA to take the lead in public-private partnerships:

A green light in Pennsylvania could bolster the political will of officials in other states trying to hash out similar deals. That in turn could jump-start projects in waiting, from Florida’s Alligator Alley to Chicago’s Midway Airport. Last month, New York Gov. David Paterson urged legislators to consider leasing some of his state’s roads, bridges and tunnels to help shrink a budget deficit projected at $26.2 billion by 2011.

2) Opposition includes the Turnpike Commission, unions, and xenophobic critics. I was disappointed that the author state the concern that, “The new operators can raise tolls 25% in 2009, then keep them in line with inflation every year,” but failed to mention that the Turnpike Commission itself plans to raise tolls by that much, or more, and has no caps on tolls, whereas a lease deal would.

3) The first major lease of an existing road in the US, the Chicago Skyway, has been a great turnaround:

In bad shape just three years ago, the Skyway itself has been given new life. Australia’s Macquarie Infrastructure Group and Cintra, another Spanish toll-road operator, together leased the bridge, filled in potholes and added electronic tolling that can process nearly triple the number of cars as the cash lanes can. They also installed reversible lanes, so that the bridge can better accommodate periods when traffic flows are particularly strong in one direction.

4) The corruption and patronage at the Turnpike Commission isn’t just one reason why we should lease the Turnpike, it is also the greatest obstacle to getting it done:

The commission, some charge, has another reason for not wanting to turn over control of the turnpike: The politically powerful group is often accused of filling jobs with friends or relatives of elected officials. “It is the last bastion of political patronage for both parties,” says Gov. Rendell. “Very few in politics want to mess up that arrangement.”

We have more Turnpike Facts and Fiction over at

Of course, House Transportation Chairman Joe Markosek says the facts don’t matter, he won’t let lawmakers vote on it. Ladies and Gentleman, Mr. Good Government.