Turnpike Lease Bid expiring – what now?

With the Turnpike lease bid expiring – and indications are there will be no extension of the $12.8 billion bid – both Governor Rendell and some lawmakers have indicated the intent on rebidding a lease deal in early 2009.  To go forward, legislators should:

  1. Legislators must take the initiative:
    a.   For such a bid to be taken seriously, legislative action will have to precede the bid process; it cannot be driven solely by the Governor.  Legislators should lay out precisely what the terms will be on aspects of toll limits, retaining current employees, maintenance requirements, bid process, and other aspects.
    b.   Constitutional limitations on the lease money—limiting it solely to transportation infrastructure—should be passed in advance of a lease deal.
  2. Repeal Act 44 and stop the Turnpike Commission’s’ borrowing.  As we have mentioned, the Turnpike Commission will continue to borrow to pay their Act 44 requirements.  This new debt obligation will likely force them to raise tolls at a rate faster than the 3% annually they are promising (which follow a 25% increase in January).
  3. Require competitive bidding on all bond work and pass Turnpike Commission reforms and/or fold the Commission into PennDOT.  Reforms dealing with hiring practices for Turnpike Commission jobs to eliminate patronage and nepotism, along with requiring competitive bidding on all bond contracts should be passed immediately.  Eliminating the Turnpike Commission and moving Turnpike operations under the fold of PennDOT would be a positive step.
  4. Embrace Public-Private Partnerships on new transportation projects.  Bills such as HB 555 (Rep. Geist) and SB 1158 (Sen. Madigan) would allow PennDOT and local governments to engage with the private sector on new projects (new roads, bridges, express lanes, etc.).  These projects will bring the efficiency of the private sector and help fund our transportation infrastructure.  The Turnpike Commission already has the authority to engage is these arrangements, and is taking bids to complete the Mon-Fayette expressway.