PA Turnpike billions in debt, and it could impact road projects across the state


If you drive on the PA Turnpike, you may notice you’re paying more and more in tolls each year. 

The reason for the price increase? The Turnpike Commission uses that money to pay an annual $450 million to the state for transit projects. 

“Three payments have not been made so far. The fourth payment is due in April, and may not be able to be made,” said Leslie Richards, PennDOT Secretary. 

The missed payments are only the beginning. Last year, a lawsuit was filed arguing the state is violating federal law by using toll money for non-turnpike related projects. 

If the Commission loses, cuts will have to be made. 

Studies of new transit projects would be scrapped, and money that goes to Amtrak could be cut in half, which would affect cities like Harrisburg and Scranton. 

“Those transit agencies are right on the cusp of just having enough for operating. And those transit agencies specifically in those areas will have to make some difficult decisions,” said Richards. 

Those filing the lawsuit are looking for a refund of the $6 billion the PA Turnpike has sent to PennDOT since 2007. 

“Is it at least possible that the Turnpike might have to declare bankruptcy?” asked Rep. John Lawrence.  “I don’t know, but we have to at least talk about what that would mean. It would be catastrophic,” replied Richards. 

House Appropriations Committee Chair, Rep. Stan Saylor is now concerned about having to potentially plug a new hole in the annual budget. 

“We’re real concerned as to, if the courts were to rule against us, where exactly we would go to try to find that funding, or if we could find that funding,” said Saylor. “$ 450 million is a lot of money to try and replace.”

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