Why the Turnpike Commission Can’t Respond

With the release of the Turnpike Commission Family Tree video and poster at TurnpikeFacts.com, PTC CEO Joe Brimmeier doesn’t have much of a response. We figure he doesn’t because stories like this from WTAE TV in Pittsburgh from November 2003 are all over the Internet.

In response to former Gov. Dick Thornburgh who said:

The fact of the matter is that the Turnpike Commission is one of the last outposts of patronage in this commonwealth.


“The Turnpike Commission persists and remains as a haven for those who want to load up the payroll for political purposes.”

Joe Brimmeier replied:

“That’s a disgusting statement. I resent that, I really do, because it ruins all of us.”

Parsons: “So you’re personally offended?”

Brimmeier: “I am offended.”

Parsons: “But Joe, didn’t you hire the son of Commissioner James Dodaro?”

Brimmeier: “Yes.”

Parsons: “Didn’t you hire the son of Congressman Bob Brady?”

Brimmeier: “Yes.”

Parsons: “Were those the most capable people for those jobs?”

Brimmeier: “They can do the job that they were hired to do. I personally knew both of them.”

People who know Brimmeier get hired before those who don’t, despite a 1997 legislative report that urged the Turnpike Commission to “adopt and implement a merit-based hiring and promotion system.”

Brimmeier: “Sure. Do we hire somebody that might be recommended by a legislator or by a senator, or by a county commissioner or by myself? Absolutely, we do that. That doesn’t make them a bad employee.”

Parsons: “Does it make them the best employee?”

Brimmeier: “We hire the best employee, absolutely.”

They hire lots of them. With more than 2,000 workers, the Turnpike Commission employs four people for every mile of road. That’s 12 times the number of employees that PennDOT has per mile of road.

When state lawmakers agreed in 1938 to build a statewide toll road, they specified that when the debt was paid off, the tollbooths would come down and the Turnpike Commission disbanded. PennDOT would then take over the highway. That could have actually happened 20 years ago.

Thornburgh: “I was determined to see the Turnpike Commission abolished. There was no need for it. The turnpike was completed. The debt was down to a manageable size. It could have been paid off.”

In 1985, Turnpike debt was only $65 million. Now, it’s more than $2 billion. Twenty cents of every toll dollar throughout the turnpike system now goes to pay down the debt.

And if you found that story disturbing, you’ll also find this one from May 2004 about Joe’s hiring of family and friends just as troubling.