Sunday, November 29, 2015

PennDOT to Turnpike: Pay $118 million or we're taking over

PennDOT invokes Act 44 and demands more money to fix state roads, bridges, transit

PennDOT to Turnpike: Pay $118 million or we're taking over


The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has demanded that the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission pay PennDOT $118 million by Sept. 18, or it will force the commission to require "a unanimous vote of all Commissioners" for any action it takes, which would have the effect of giving PennDOT secretary Allen D. Biehler, an appointee of Gov. Rendell's, veto power over the Turnpike's future decisions.

The letters were disclosed in a supplement, filed yesterday, to the Turnpike Commission's planned $273.5 million bond issue prospectus from last month.

According to the supplement, the turnpike made PennDOT a payment of $112.5 million last month for state road, bridge and transit work, as required by the state's Act 44 transporation subsidy law. But PennDOT, in letters Aug. 4 and Aug. 16, says the Turnpike owes another $118 million, under that same Act 44.

The Turnpike disputes PennDOT's interpretation, but tells potential bondholders that, under the Act 44 funding agreement, PennDOT says it will invoke its veto rights, and also seek additional, unspecified "remedies", if it doesn't get the money by the September 18 deadline.

Turnpike spokesman Carl DeFebo says the Commission doesn't believe it owes what PennDOT demands. PennDOT declined to comment.  UPDATE: Harrisburg Patriot-News says Gov. Rendell doesn't support PennDOT's action. Previous proposals to raise transportation funds by leasing the Turnpike to private owners (Rendell) or raising tolls on I-80 (the Turnpike's idea) have been shot down. So where's road, bridge, and transit-fixing money supposed to come from?

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About this blog

PhillyDeals posts interviews, drafts and updates that Joseph N. DiStefano writes alongside his Sunday and Monday columns and ongoing articles about Philadelphia-area business.

DiStefano studied economics, history and a little engineering at Penn. He taught writing and research at St. Joe’s. He has written for the Inquirer since 1989, except when he left a few times to work at Bloomberg and elsewhere. He wrote the book Comcasted, and raised six kids with his wife, who is a saint.

Reach Joseph N. at, 215.854.5194, @PhillyJoeD. Read his blog posts at and his Inquirer columns at Bloomberg posts his items at NH BLG_PHILLYDEAL.

Reach Joseph at or 215 854 5194.

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