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Pa. Auditor General Launches Audit Of Turnpike

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Fresh on the heels of a KDKA Investigation into unpaid tolls on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, the Pennsylvania Auditor General launched an audit of the turnpike today.

Turnpike Commission Chairman Sean Logan complained in our report that hundreds of thousands of drivers were leaving the turnpike without paying.

The Turnpike Commission confirmed for our report that when the fiscal year ended in May there were $33.3 million in uncollected tolls. Additionally, $3.7 million in uncollected tolls were completely written off as uncollectable.

"It's something we're going to be digging into to see if it's accurate and what can be done to try to fix it," says Auditor General Eugene DePasquale. "If there are people who aren't paying the tolls then the people who are following the rules and following the law are basically subsidizing the people who aren't following the rules, and I don't think that's acceptable."

An audit of the Turnpike is done by the AG's Office every four years, but DePasquale says, "With recent media reports, we certainly will look into the issue with toll collection problems as part of this current audit. There may be changes needed to put more teeth into laws or regulations to help crack down on toll scofflaws."

Logan welcomes the audit and is pledging Turnpike cooperation.

He would like to see an effort in Harrisburg to give the Pennsylvania Turnpike the same authority other states have to go after those who refuse to pay.

As KDKA reported, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC) currently sends two bills to the violator based on the vehicle's license plate number and then turns it over to a collection agency. About 70 percent of the violators pay up, but Logan says the PTC is powerless to do anything about the rest.

Maryland has the authority to void a vehicle's registration, and in New Jersey the violator can be fined $500 and or sentenced to up to 30 days in jail.

"We'll look at what other states have done," DePasquale says," and present those to the general assembly and the Turnpike Commission."

The Auditor General says," You're never going to get every dime, I get that, but $33 million is a lot of money."

The audit will also be looking into the financial practices of the Turnpike and its long-term sustainability. It will also look at how the commission awards contracts and whether it's in compliance with applicable procurement policies and procedures.

The audit won't be completed until next year, but Logan is hoping someone emerges in the Legislature before then to pick up the turnpike's cause to give it the authority to collect the money violators are unwilling to pay.

Or as Logan put it in a statement, "Plain and simple, those who intentionally evade tolls are crooks."

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