STEVE INSKEEP, host:
If you're driving along the Pennsylvania Turnpike you pay for high gas prices as well as pay a toll, and those tolls add up. They add up so much that state officials are considering a $12.8 billion bid from a private investment group to manage the state's turnpike. The company thinks it can pay that much and still make a profit. It could be the largest toll road deal ever.
Taunya English reports from member station WITF in Harrisburg.
TAUNYA ENGLISH: Governor Ed Rendell says the 75-year lease deal would give the commonwealth guaranteed cash in hand to use for its aging roads and bridges. The state also needs money to shore up mass transit.
Other states have brokered similar multibillion dollar deals. Indiana leases its toll road and a private firm manages the Chicago Skyway. Toll operator Abertis Infraestructuras would manage the Pennsylvania Turnpike. The bid is being partly financed by a division of Citigroup.
Pennsylvania lawmakers have to approve the deal, but critics at the capitol don't want to hand day-to-day operations over to a for-profit company. But the governor says a for-profit company is exactly what's needed to keep the turnpike running smoothly.
Governor ED RENDELL (Pennsylvania): They can't make money if this isn't a great road.
ENGLISH: State Senator Gerald LaValle says turnpike management should be answerable to the governor and the legislature.
State Senator GERALD LAVALLE (Democrat, Pennsylvania): And a long term lease like that is something that you can start out in one direction and pretty soon all you agree to upfront you change as time goes on.
ENGLISH: Rendell says his administration has negotiated a contract that locks in toll rate increases and maintenance schedules. The bidder also has to honor current contracts with union workers.
Democrats often back Rendell's plans, but maybe not this time. There's a June 20th deadline for the proposal, but it's unclear how long the bid will be on the table.
I'm Taunya English in Harrisburg.
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