Private companies can weigh in on Pennsylvania turnpike lease

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Following a growing trend, Pennsylvania is considering privatizing or leasing out its famed turnpike. Private companies will have until Friday, Dec. 22, to submit expressions of interest to commonwealth officials to determine the value of leasing or privatizing the turnpike.

Participating companies must describe how the public could be protected from excessive toll increases, according to a release from Gov. Edward Rendell. “It is an exciting proposition to consider if we are to keep toll rates reasonable and generate enough money to make major improvements in our state’s transportation system without burdensome tax increases,” Rendell said.

Last month, the Pennsylvania Transportation Funding and Reform Commission issued a final report describing the gap between funding and appropriate investment levels for transportation. That report identified several potential tax and fee revenue sources as possible ways to raise revenue. The commission stated the need for new tax or fee revenue could be offset substantially by revenue from a public-private partnership involving the turnpike.

The state has introduced some bills on public-private partnerships, but legislation would have to pass to authorize a public-private partnership or other leveraging transaction. The request for expressions of interest is not a formal procurement process, because no decision to seriously pursue the idea has been made.