Pennsylvania House Republicans are backing a proposal to eliminate the state Turnpike Commission in the wake of last month's grand jury indictment of eight people involved in what has been called a pay-to-play scheme.

 

Rep. Donna Oberlander, R-Clarion, is introducing a measure to have the state Department of Transportation assume all powers and duties of the turnpike and abolish the Turnpike Commission.

The agency itself is redundant, she said, and the toll road it manages would be less costly to taxpayers if it were in the care of PennDOT.

"PennDOT will receive all tolls and other money payable to the commission and will in exchange be responsible for all aspects of the operations and maintenance," Oberlander said.

Under Oberlander's measure, union contracts with the turnpike and employees would remain intact.

The commonwealth would assume the turnpike's debt of roughly $8 billion -- a debt that has ballooned due to a 2007 state law requiring the toll road to fork over hundreds of millions to PennDOT annually.

The Turnpike Commission's CEO isn't taking a position on the House proposal.