3/20/2007Pennsylvania Toll Road Sale Details Kept Top Secret
Pennsylvania authorities keep details on the proposed sale of state toll roads secret from legislators and the public.
Lawmakers who will decide whether to adopt the plan of Governor Edward G. Rendell (D) to sell the Pennsylvania Turnpike to one of 48 companies have been denied access to proposal details. Despite the impact on everyday users of the road, the state Department of Transportation has refused requests from state House Appropriations Committee Chairman Dwight Evans (D-Philadelphia), state Representative Joseph Markosek (D-Allegheny), the media and the public for copies of relevant documents.
"Submissions, which may contain proprietary information, are not made public," a PennDOT spokesman told the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper.
Rendell hopes to sell the 160-mile toll road in return for a massive one-time payment of up to $30 billion to help balance the state budget. The road, at current toll levels, generates around $550 million in revenue each year. Legislation introduced in the General Assembly on Monday would authorize the sale. In Australia, California and Colorado, secrecy regarding contract details hid "non-compete" agreements from the public. These provisions were designed to increase congestion on nearby free roads to force motorists onto the pay route. The provisions also led to the failure of the public-private partnership in Australia and California.
New Jersey Governor John Corzine (D) is likewise looking to sell the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway. A majority of New Jersey motorists, 56 percent, told AAA that they opposed selling the state roads.
The former investment bank employers of Governors Corzine and Rendell are among the bidders for the toll road deal.