Citing at least $7.7 million in lost toll revenue between January 2007 and August 2011, Auditor General Jack Wagner calls upon the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission to stop granting unlimited toll-free travel for turnpike employees and others. Some 7,000 turnpike employees and vendors took advantage of the liberal free ride policy over the more than 4 and a half year time period. Wagner highlighted the problem in a letter today to Pennsylvania Turnpike Chairman William Lieberman and Acting Chief Executive Craig Shuey. The letter accompanied a draft unit report that Wagner provided to the Turnpike commission for review and comment. Wagner says he plans to release the final audit report to the public before his term expires next month.
Wagner says the turnpike’s toll-free travel giveaways comes at a time when it is in danger of collapsing under debt due to increased borrowing necessitated by Act 44 of 2007. That legislation, which requires the turnpike to provide PennDOT with $450 million a year, has raised the turnpike’s debt by 200 percent, to $7.8 billion.
“It is unacceptable for turnpike executives to ask the motoring public to foot the bill for this increased borrowing in the form of annual toll increases while they shield themselves from the financial pain by giving themselves free travel,” Wagner said.
Wagner said that the toll-free travel was awarded in several ways, including photo identification cards for employees, non-photo cards for contractors and others, and special E-ZPass transponders for employees and others. Wagner’s auditors found that the 7,000 people who could ride the turnpike for free represented a 60 percent increase from 1997. For more on Auditor’s General’s report click here