Penn Turnpike mired in debt: auditor

The state DOT has bilked its turnpike nearly bankrupt, according an audit, and the average taxpayer might ‘on the hook’ a multibillion dollar debt jolt.

A 2007 law is jeopardizing the existence of turnpike commission in Pennsylvania, a state auditor has revealed in a financial report.

The turnpike is “sinking in debt” because of Act 44, wrote Jack Wagner, who said that the turnpike between 2007 and 2011 gave about $3 billion to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT).

Meanwhile, the commission has amassed a $541 million loss.

The state general assembly has to amend Act 44, cited by Wagner as “onerous,” having increased the debt on the turnpike from $2.9 billion to $7.3 billion and putting the taxpayer “on the hook,” Wagner said.

Wagner concluded that the turnpike, like Harrisburg, the state capital, is “in danger of becoming financially insolvent and defaulting”.

The commission has disputed Wagner, claiming the agency can manage its debt.

The commission installed Act 44 to prevent then governor Ed Rendell from abolishing the agency and moving forward with a 75-year-long concession of the turnpike—Abertis offered $12.8 billion upfront.

Statewide, Pennsylvania is struggling with debt. A board was set up to examine installing a public-private partnership (PPP) program to avert deepening the dire financial condition assailing the state.