Rendell Gauges Private Financial Interests in PA Turnpike

HARRISBURG – Gov. Edward G. Rendell and Pennsylvania Transportation Secretary Al Biehler, P.E., today announced that the commonwealth will solicit expressions of interest from private firms to determine the potential value of leasing or privatizing the Pennsylvania Turnpike, and the pluses and minuses of doing so. A copy of PennDOT’s “request for expressions of interest” is attached.

“For years, Pennsylvania has been enduring a transportation funding crisis with no feasible, comprehensive solution that is based on an analysis of all available options,” said Rendell. “There are dozens of ideas that have been proposed over the years, including leasing the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Before we pursue this or any other plan to solve the transportation crisis, we need to learn more about the lease option and how much revenue it could generate.”

As part of the request for expressions of interest issued through the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, private firms must describe what steps could be taken to protect the public from excessive toll increases, as well as ways to protect turnpike users and employees. This is not a formal procurement process because no decision to seriously pursue the idea has been made.

“The turnpike is a valuable asset that was built by public employees and paid for by motorists. If in the future we decide that changing the way it is managed is valuable enough to Pennsylvania, we should definitely consider it. Nonetheless, the protection of the public will be our number one priority,” said the Governor. “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.”

Firms interested in advising the commonwealth on the benefits and drawbacks of this approach must send submissions to PennDOT by Dec. 22, 2006.

“There is a tremendous amount of expertise already developed for other states that have chosen to lease or privatize their turnpike operations,” said Biehler.

“We want to draw on that expertise and learn as much as we can from a broad range of interested firms about how these arrangements could be structured to benefit Pennsylvanians, “said Biehler.

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