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New Commonwealth/Reason Policy Brief: Pennsylvania Turnpike Lease FAQ

Today the Commonwealth Foundation and Reason Foundation released a new policy brief--Leasing the Turnpike: Frequently Asked Questions and Answers--to help inform and enhance the current transportation policy debate in Pennsylvania regarding the proposed $12.8 billion dollar lease of the Pennsylvania Turnpike to a joint venture of Abertis & Citi Infrastructure Investors.

From the press release:

"With a $12.8 billion bid to lease and operate the Pennsylvania Turnpike for 75 years, many questions will need to be answered before the General Assembly and the general public can determine whether or not to accept the offer," said Matthew Brouillette, president of the Commonwealth Foundation. "We obviously believe that a Public-Private Partnership on the Turnpike is better transportation policy than the current law, Act 44. But we understand that this is a new concept for most Pennsylvanians and they deserve answers to their genuine concerns."

The policy brief asks and answers twenty-one of the most common questions related to Pennsylvania's transportation funding needs and cost, current and proposed solutions, and the benefits of a Turnpike lease. The policy brief can be accessed at CommonwealthFoundation.org and at Reason.org.

"We welcome and encourage debate on this critical issue, and hope our policy brief adds to the discussion" said Len Gilroy, director of government reform at Reason Foundation. "We've found that the more people learn about the benefits of Public-Private Partnerships, the more inclined they are to embrace them. The legally binding contract between the state and the operator bring a level of openness, transparency and accountability that citizens and taxpayers don't get anywhere else in government."

Among the questions addressed in the policy brief are:

  • What are the potential benefits of a Public-Private Partnership on the Turnpike?
  • Where does the value of the Turnpike come from?
  • Isn't a 75-year lease to a private interest equivalent to the selling of a public asset? Isn't 75 years far too long to lease a valuable road? The Commonwealth would be committing future generations when we cannot predict what the needs will be.
  • What if the private company breaches the contract or goes out of business?
  • Didn't Act 44 of 2007–which will impose new tolls on the currently free Interstate-80–solve our transportation funding problem?
  • What if the Federal Highway Administration rejects Pennsylvania's application to toll I-80?
  • Will Turnpike employees lose their jobs or see their wages and benefits cut?

The full policy brief is available here, or on the Commonwealth Foundation's website.

For more on the PA Turnpike lease, see here, here, and here. Our friends at Commonwealth Foundation have also made this handy list of resources available. And be sure to check out Bob Poole and Peter Samuel's April 2008 study that found the PA Turnpike to be one of the least efficient toll roads in the country.

Leonard Gilroy is Director of Government Reform


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