Whether the Feds will go along with the state plan to toll PA/I-80 is one of the hottest political issues in the state right now with dire predictions being made about the retrenchments that will be needed at state agencies if the US Secretary Transportation says no. At stake is an annual half a billion dollars the Pennsylvania Turnpike is due to pay the state with I-80 tolled that will be lost from another No.
Someone asked recently what were the three toughest PR jobs in tolling in north America. The answer in ascending order of difficulty:
"Pennsylvania Independent" reports that the Obama administration will say "No" to the Pennsylvania Turnpike application to toll I-80.
S Michael Palermo a former associate executive director at the Pennsylvania Turnpike and longtime flunkey to jailed state senator Vincent Fumo apologized in US District Court today, and said he had been wrong to sign on for no-work contracts with agencies of the state of Pennsylvania.
US transport secretary Ray LaHood told four members of a Pennsylvania congressional delegation that a US decision on whether I-80 can be tolled will be made "very soon." This is reported today by US Rep Glenn 'GT' Thompson (Repub) from the State College area of central northern part of the state where I-80 is the major east-west artery.
Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell says "all" transit agencies in the state will benefit from tolls on I-80. Capitolwire out of Harrisburg PA reports that Rendell made the statement at a conference of the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania late last year.
Former US congressman and state senator John Peterson calls the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission a "cauldron of corruption" and the state Senate's "patronage pit" in a column running in state newspapers.
The large US Department of Justice prosecution that put the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission's longtime state senate patron Vincent Fumo into jail for four and a half years for 137 counts of thievery and corruption was run by Patrick Meehan, the US Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
Former Pennsylvania Turnpike staffer and "consultant" S Michael Palermo, 69, pled guilty to fraud today in US District Court in Philadelphia. Charged with receiving $290k in state funds through phony work contracts arranged with Democrat Senate leader Vincent Fumo, Palermo admitted receiving the payoffs and agreed to repay the money to the state in return for 12 months house arrest and five years probation.
Two years after their first shot at getting the Feds to approve tolling I-80 at points across the state the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission and PennDOT are trying again. They say they should have the formal application including supporting studies ready for the Feds by late this fall.
Some hope the Obama administration will be more sympathetic than the Bush administration.