Turnpike Emerges As PA’s “Most Powerful Agency”

(Tribune Review) Despite its history as a haven for political patronage, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission emerged from the state’s budget impasse as a transportation power broker and an agency with unparalleled clout in state government.

Under House Bill 1590, the commission will provide on average $900 million a year to pay for improvements to highways and bridges across the state and to assist mass transit agencies. The Turnpike Commission will provide the money from its own profits, by borrowing up to $10.7 billion and by raising tolls 25% in 2009. The agency will impose tolls on Interstate 80.

Giving this much power to an unelected (hence unaccountable) commission cannot be good. To put this in perspective, a $10.7 billion loan is about 40% of the entire state budget.