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CPBJ Extra Blog

It's only a matter of time

Jim T. Ryan
Jim T. Ryan

Time goes on perpetually, unlike relationships, contracts, roads and many other things in the world.

But let's look at a few things in those above categories for some reflection on things that never last.

For starters, it was a foregone conclusion that when the Teamsters helped Kansas-based trucking conglomerate YRC Worldwide Inc. stay afloat by renegotiating their contract, complete with multiple concessions on wages, jobs and benefits, that the other national freight companies would be expecting similar deals.

In fact, that's part of the reason that Arkansas-based ABF Freight Systems Inc. sued YRC and the Teamsters several years ago.

But with votes last week, the Teamster local unions accepted new master agreements with both ABF and UPS.

Essentially, the companies won in that they got the unions to accept several key concessions, like contributions to health care benefits, among other things.

• • •

Now over to the world of public sector transportation disarray. We've all heard by now that transportation funding reform didn't pass as part of the state budget package last Sunday.

So now transportation will have to be addressed sometime in the new fiscal year. Except, this year also brings elections, and we all know the legislature has no stomach for reform in an election year. That was the case in 2011, 2010, 2009... At this point, it's a lame excuse.

• • •

Optimism didn't last long at the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission with collapse of the transportation bill. It would've cut the turnpike's payments to PennDOT nearly in half, freeing up $200 million to pay debt, which has been incurred as a result of the payments.

"At this point, it's too soon to say specifically what the impact is," turnpike spokesman Carl DeFebo said in an email. "We will continue to evaluate that in the coming weeks. We may be forced to dial back our capital spending and operating budgets department by department — but that's not an immediate outcome. Should know more after July 16 commission meeting. Bottom line: We still have this funding obligation and fully intend to meet it."

This week, turnpike CEO Mark Compton appointed members to the special advisory committee that will review contracting and business practices, a response to the grand jury indictments and pay-to-play scandal. The appointees are:

• John L. Gedid of Cumberland County, a retired law professor and founder and director of the Law & Government Institute at Widener University School of Law's Harrisburg campus.

• Maureen Lally-Green of Butler County, a retired State Superior Court judge and adjunct professor at Duquesne University School of Law, Pittsburgh. She also serves as an associate general secretary of the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh.

• M.G. Patel of Dauphin County, a former executive at Hersha Group, the Harrisburg investment trust focused on hotel real estate, and retired chief engineer of PennDOT with more than 30 years of experience.

One of the issues dragging out for the turnpike is contract talks with toll collectors represented by the Teamsters. Still no deal after two years. Negotiations are ongoing, DeFebo said.

Although the turnpike says it will not discuss the contract negotiations in the media, there's a bandage falling off, and we can all see the gaping wound in these negotiations: all-electronic tolling.

The turnpike announced plans last year to move forward with all-electronic tolling by 2018. Planning and conceptual designs should be done by the end of the year, DeFebo said.

Some things don't last, but the circle goes round and round.

Jim T. Ryan covers Cumberland County, manufacturing, transportation and workforce issues. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at You can also follow him on Twitter, @JimTRyanCPBJ.

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