Pennsylvania governor drops plan to lease turnpike

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Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell has abandoned a plan to lease the commonwealth’s turnpike in hopes of reaching a compromise with the Legislature on a new state budget – which may include tolls on Interstates 80 and 95. Rendell, a Democrat, made various concessions June 26 to legislative critics, according to the Pennsylvania Conference of Teamsters, which opposed the turnpike lease, as did the Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association.

As part of his budget address in February, Rendell suggested a turnpike lease as part of a plan to generate $965 million a year for highways and bridges. However, a statewide survey conducted by the trucking association indicated two out of three Pennsylvanians opposed privatizing the turnpike.

House Majority Leader Bill DeWeese and Majority Whip Keith McCall said HB 1590 — the transportation bill the House passed 105-96 on June 27, and now pending in the Senate — would solve the transportation problems cited by Rendell without leasing the turnpike.

The Democrat lawmakers said the plan does this by issuing bonds against the value of the turnpike to raise more than $4 billion and by placing a toll on I-80 to capture revenue from out-of-state traffic, which is more than 75 percent of the total traffic on that highway. The bill also calls for studying whether I-95 could be tolled as well.