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Lititz, PA 17543
Phone:  (717) 626-1776
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smentzer@pahousegop.com

Legislature Studies PennDOT/Turnpike Merger
4/12/2018
By Rep. Steve Mentzer (R-Lititz)
The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission recently announced another series of rate hikes. I am often contacted by folks who ask why the Turnpike is a separate entity from state Department of Transportation (PennDOT).

Many people believe that having two separate entities is a waste of money and that too many high-paying Turnpike administrative jobs drive costs higher than need be.
Well, in February the state Senate approved a study to examine combining the interstate operations of PennDOT and the Turnpike Commission.

Currently, both PennDOT and the Turnpike are responsible for the planning, construction and maintenance of interstate highways and freeways under their respective jurisdictions. I believe lawmakers have an obligation to the taxpayers to analyze all cost-saving measures, particularly when two overlapping Commonwealth agencies perform similar duties.

The resolution directs the Joint State Government Commission to conduct the study and produce a report for lawmakers.

State law that perpetuates toll increases on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, which some drivers have called “highway robbery,” deserves a closer look from the Legislature. Unfortunately, the damage done won't be easily corrected — at least not in the short term.

Aside from a class-action lawsuit filed by truckers and motorists against the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, PennDOT and Gov. Tom Wolf over “excessive fees,” there's the very real consideration of how unending toll increases affect the state's commerce — particularly as some truckers and motorists bypass the turnpike to avoid the increasingly deeper pocket diving.

The problem is Act 44, which in 2007 was supposed to accrue revenue by tolling Interstate 80. But the federal government nixed the proposal. That left the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission on the hook for payments of $450 million annually to PennDOT.

I have consistently supported efforts to reform and combine these two agencies, such as House Bill 1197 of 2013. Unfortunately, that piece of legislation never made it to the governor’s desk.

I believe this study will show that there are a lot of redundant costs incurred by the Commission, such as engineering services and maintenance crews, which could be reduced significantly if the Turnpike was operated by PennDOT. If things don't change, those unnecessary costs will continue to be passed on to drivers through ever-increasing tolls.
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