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Harper Has Doubts About Turnpike Debt

Turnpike-LogoSome state lawmakers are concerned about the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission’s financial condition.

Commission CEO Roger Nutt said at a legislative hearing last week that annual toll hikes will pay down its high debt, but House Transportation Committee member Kate Harper of Montgomery County has her doubts.

“Turnpike officials believe that it’s sort of like a Home Equity Loan, that as long as you can make the payments it’s not a problem how much debt that you have.  I hope they’re right, but I’m not sure that they are.”

She says the toll road is not the only thing dragging the commission deeper into debt.

“We have a transportation funding crisis in Pennsylvania, and right now the turnpike is shouldering part of the burden by paying for SEPTA, about $250 million a year, and also putting another $200 million toward roads and bridges around the state.  If you think of the turnpike as part of Pennsylvania’s transportation system it makes sense.”

Harper says a law passed a few years ago required the turnpike to share toll receipts with other roads and bridge and mass transit, but it also included charging tolls on Interstate 80, and when the federal government turned that down the turnpike ended up carrying heavy debt.  She says lawmakers need to recognize the crisis and deal with it.

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