HARRISBURG - The chairman of the state House Transportation Committee yesterday said Gov. Rendell's plan to lease the Pennsylvania Turnpike essentially was dead.
Legislation that would authorize the proposed $12.8 billion lease will not get a committee vote, Rep. Joseph Markosek (D., Allegheny) said. Markosek said there was very little support for the deal in the House and it was time to focus on other aspects of transportation policy.
"We've had extensive hearings," he said. "The majority of members of the committee are dead-set against the lease."
Rendell, asked why he thought a deal could still be made after Markosek vowed not to let the bill move out of committee, said last night, "I've heard that 'no intentions' before. 'No intentions' in this building have a tendency to change."
Rendell said that with hundreds of millions of dollars in transportation infrastructure and mass transit improvements at stake, he would press the Turnpike Commission to file its answers regarding the tolling of I-80 to the federal government "expeditiously." He said he expected to get an answer from the U.S. Department of Transportation on the tolling proposal this summer.
Markosek called the proposal a bad financial deal that would not be worth pursuing even if the federal government does not approve adding tolls to I-80 under a law passed last summer.
"This is such an insufficient financial deal that even if we desperately need the money, this wouldn't be the answer," Markosek said.
Pennsylvania Transportation Partners, a group established by high bidders Abertis Infraestructuras of Spain and Citi Infrastructure Investors, wants to operate about 500 miles of the turnpike system under a 75-year lease.
The money that such a lease would produce would be invested, with the proceeds dedicated to helping to plug a $1.7 billion hole in the state's annual needs for highways, bridges and mass transit.
Partners spokesman Jim Courtovich said the group intended to continue to push their offer despite Markosek's opposition.