Transportation
7:30 pm
Fri January 6, 2012

Turnpike Commission Disputes Audit, Says It's Financially Sound

The Pennsylvania Auditor General said that the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission has seen its long-term debt more than double since state lawmakers approved legislation requiring the commission to provide infrastructure funding to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, and that is hurting the Commission's ability to operate.

Auditor General Jack Wagner said that the agency's debt has ballooned from $2.6 billion to $7.3 billion since Act 44 was passed in 2007.

Under Act 44, the turnpike commission must supply the state Department of Transportation with $450 million annually to pay for bridge repairs, road work, and mass transit. The arrangement expires in 2057.

But Turnpike CEO Roger Nutt said that the commission is financially sound and has a fiscally responsible approach to its debts. However, turnpike spokesman Carl DeFebo says that the Turnpike Commission doesn't totally disagree with Wagner.

"In fact, he made some relevant points that [the debt] could possibly have a negative effect down the road. And that's a 'might.' It's difficult to speculate at this time, but that's something that certainly needs to be looked at, and I think that's what his concern was," said DeFebo.

Originally, Act 44 allowed the turnpike commission to install toll booths on Interstate 80 to raise additional revenue, but the Federal Highway Administration nixed that plan. A new source of revenue has yet to be approved.