A day after the state auditor general said the Pennsylvania Turnpike should end the practice of letting its employees and vendors drive on the toll road for free when they're not working, Gov. Tom Corbett and Turnpike officials opened a new all-electronic interchange while deflecting questions about the free-pass policy.
Auditor General Jack Wagner said Monday he estimates the free-pass policy cost the state at least $7.7 million in lost collections over nearly five years. It's not clear how much of that is personal travel and how much is work-related.
“With tolls set to rise again for Turnpike customers on Jan. 6, Turnpike executives should stop granting toll-free personal travel to its employees and assure the public that they are doing everything within their power to hold down future fare increases,” Wagner said in a press release. “This type of waste is disturbing and exhibits a careless disregard for those who foot the Turnpike’s bills -- taxpayers and motorists.”
Wagner calls the practice disturbing and is urging Turnpike executives to stop it, or at least improve oversight. Wagner plans to issue a report on the subject later this month.
According to a Turnpike spokesperson, currently Turnpike employees are permitted to drive the Turnpike using free E-Zpasses or by showing their photo IDs at all times because they are obligated to help if they witness an emergency. Contractors and vendors are only permitted to ride for free when they're working.
A day after Wagner's report was released, Corbett attended a ribbon-cutting for the new all-electronic exit and entrance ramps that connect the Turnpike with Route 29 in Malvern. Exit 320 is east of the Downingtown interchange, and west of Valley Forge.
When asked about the report on free rides for turnpike employees costing the Turnpike Commission millions, both Corbett and Turnpike Commissioner Pat Deon Sr. said they had yet to review the report and couldn’t comment.
But, officials did have good things to say about the new exit. They say the improvement should cut congestion, and Corbett is touting its ability to attract businesses to the region.
“This interchange is about saving time and improving access to our transportation
systems,” Corbett said in a press release. “It’s one step in our journey to prosperity.”
Corbett said as the state makes it “easier to reach our places of commerce, those offices and the jobs they create will flourish.”
The Republican governor said he wants to work with lawmakers on a long-term funding plan for transportation infrastructure.