Leasing the Turnpike: Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

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Tthe Commonwealth Foundation and the Los Angeles-based Reason Foundation released a policy brief entitled Leasing the Turnpike: Frequently Asked Questions and Answers to help enhance and enlighten the current transportation policy debate.

The policy brief asks and answers twenty-one of the most common questions related to Pennsylvania’s transportation funding needs and cost, current and proposed solutions, and the benefits of a Turnpike lease.

The twenty-one questions and answers in the policy brief include:

  1. Does Pennsylvania need more money for its roads, highways, bridges and mass transit systems?
  2. Didn’t Act 44 of 2007—which will impose new tolls on the currently free Interstate-80—solve our transportation funding problem?
  3. What if the Federal Highway Administration rejects Pennsylvania’s application to toll I-80?
  4. What are the options available to policymakers for raising additional revenue for transportation projects?
  5. What is a Public-Private Partnership?
  6. What are the potential benefits of a Public-Private Partnership on the Turnpike?
  7. Aren’t Public-Private Partnerships, particularly leases of existing assets, new and unproven?
  8. Isn’t a 75-year lease to a private interest equivalent to the selling of a public asset? Isn’t 75 years far too long to lease a valuable road? The Commonwealth would be committing future generations when we cannot predict what the needs will be.
  9. Where does the value of the Turnpike come from?
  10. Isn’t public financing cheaper than private financing, thereby lowering the costs to taxpayers and toll-payers?
  11. Isn’t the Turnpike an efficiently run toll road?
  12. Wouldn’t a lease of Pennsylvania Turnpike just be a short-term fix with long-term problems?
  13. Why should the users of the Turnpike pay for the transportation costs of the rest of the state? Why not spread that burden to the users of I-80?
  14. Won’t the Governor and General Assembly misspend the billions of dollars from a lease deal?
  15. What if the private company breaches the contract or goes out of business?
  16. Won’t tolls skyrocket under a privately managed Turnpike?
  17. Won’t a private operator neglect the maintenance of the Turnpike to maximize profits?
  18. Won’t higher Turnpike tolls divert traffic to parallel roads?
  19. Isn’t it both a national security risk and bad economic policy to allow a foreign company to operate the Turnpike and send its profits elsewhere?
  20. Wouldn’t a Turnpike lease agreement include a “non-compete clause” giving the winning bidder protection from competition?
  21. Will Turnpike employees lose their jobs or see their wages and benefits cut?

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