The toll not taken: Pa. Turnpike loses millions with free passes

    The Pennsylvania Turnpike could be paying a high price for its policy allowing free travel for employees, contractors, and state officials.

    The state’s outgoing auditor general is calling on the Turnpike Commission to address his concerns before higher tolls go into effect next month.

    Jack Wagner says he’s not against free “work-related” travel for employees, but doesn’t believe specially designated travelers should get the same carte blanche.

    “There has to be far greater oversight of free travel on the Pennsylvania Turnpike,” he said Monday.

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    According to numbers from the turnpike, the roadway lost more than $7 million dollars in toll revenue between 2007 and 2011 due to free passes it offers to employees and others for work and personal travel.

    Wagner says the turnpike’s policy is to allow its employees to travel for free, even for personal trips, so that they can be the “eyes and ears” of the Turnpike and locate problems.

    “They can utilize the turnpike at will, both for work purposes and for free personal use,” he said. “In our first finding, we basically state that the free personal use should be eliminated.”

    The lost revenue also includes toll fare never collected from consultants, contractors, State Police, PennDOT officials, and people from the governor and lieutenant governor’s offices.

    Wagner says the toll road can’t afford to waste a dollar, given its rising debt, and the agency should be closely monitoring its free passes for possible abuse.

    A Pennsylvania Turnpike spokesman says the agency is reviewing Wagner’s concerns.

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