Best turnpike future is a private one, without commission

A group of state House Republicans is reviving legislation that would eliminate the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission and make it part of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

The action comes after state prosecutors charged former Senate Democratic Leader Robert J. Mellow and seven others with a pay-to-play scheme involving contracts and campaign contributions at the agency.

The charges are just the latest chapter in a decades-old litany of corruption that has surrounded the turnpike commission.

According to the grand jury’s report, the commission this time has been corrupted by secret gifts of cash, travel and entertainment and political contributions from vendors rewarded with multi-million dollar contracts.

Is this the last straw?

We hope so.

Frankly, we wish people in the position to do so would simply turn over the turnpike to private management.

We wish they would sell off the turnpike assets for funding that would pay for the state’s roads, bridges and mass transit needs.

That was ostensibly what former Gov. Ed Rendell wanted to do several years ago. He had it right.

That plan didn’t go forth, but Act 44 did.

That much-debated act mandated that the turnpike make an annual payment to help meet the state transportation network’s humongous funding needs.

That has only left the turnpike commission deep in debt, forcing it to hike tolls.

That also makes it fiscally shaky to merge the commission into PennDOT.

When a government system is broken, corrupt and bleeding money, it should be dismantled. If the service can be turned over to the private sector, so much the better.

So the state is on the right track to eliminate the commission, but the best course would be to revisit the prospects of selling off all the assets and allowing private management to take over the system.