Turnpike plans changes to ‘improve operations and transparency’

Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission CEO Mark Compton said the agency will implement several recommendations made recently by a special advisory committee to improve operations.

The recommendations include strengthening ethics training for its employees and vendors; adding an independent professional to review major bid projects; enhancing the agency’s transparency; and encouraging periodic independent oversight of turnpike policies and operations.

The three-member committee was appointed in March 2013 to review operations, following the release of a statewide grand jury presentment alleging wrongdoing by former turnpike employees and vendors. The advisory committee was created as an independent committee with the ability to make any recommendation to improve the operations of the turnpike.

The advisory committee report details 10 recommendations for improving the contracting procedures and business practices of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission. Among the recommendations are ways to strengthen the turnpike’s ethics policies, including requiring both turnpike employees and vendors to receive training in the agency’s code of conduct. Also recommended was requiring potential bidders for turnpike projects to affirm they have no conflicts of interest and continuing to encourage employees and vendors to report unethical behavior.

The advisory committee will continue its mission for another year, meeting quarterly to review the turnpike’s progress on implementing its recommendations.

“We have come a long way in creating a culture of ethics, efficiency and transparency at the turnpike,” Compton said. “I am looking forward to reviewing this report to continue our efforts.”

The committee members are M.G. Patel of Mechanicsburg, Cumberland County, a former PennDOT chief highway engineer and construction company executive; Maureen E. Lally-Green of Cranberry Township, Butler County, a retired judge of the state Superior Court; and John L. Gedid of Mechanicsburg, a former vice dean of Widener University School of Law and a retired law professor.

A summary of the advisory committee’s recommendations includes:

  1. Strengthen the ethics training requirements at the PTC for employees, consultants, construction contractors, vendors and other business partners.
  2. Enhance the process for evaluating the procurement of professional services and construction contracts to provide for greater transparency and accountability.
  3. Establish a procedure for periodic reviews of policies and procedures for continuous improvement purposes.
  4. Improve transparency of business practices through more robust public outreach.
  5. Institutionalize the improvements by adopting all recommendations as part of the PTC Policy Manual.
  6. Establish a policy for continual implementation of these recommendations, including a process for participation of an independent advisory person or group.
  7. Prepare succession planning for key PTC positions, particularly for the chief operating officer, chief engineer, and all department heads.
  8. Develop a structured transition process for new commissioners and a new CEO.
  9. Establish vision, mission, goal, objective and values for PTC to institutionalize recently implemented ethics, integrity, transparency and quality of services.
  10. Continue to promote and make best use of initiatives to minimize overlap of common operational activities such as training and co-locating maintenance sites with PennDOT.

• • •
In other transportation news, the state Department of Transportation initiated two construction projects this week that may disrupt drivers for a few weeks.

Repair work began Monday on the bridge that carries Route 696 over the Conodoguinet Creek just south of Newburg in western Cumberland County. Daytime traffic may be restricted to a single lane over the next one to two weeks, PennDOT said in a news release.

J.D. Eckman Inc. is performing the work as part of a $7.4 million contract to make repairs to a number of bridges in southcentral Pennsylvania between June 2014 and July 2018.

Work to repair the Norman Wood Bridge that carries Route 372 over the Susquehanna River between York and Lancaster counties also began Monday. The bridge is a two-lane, 20-span bridge that carries an average daily traffic of 4,250 vehicles.

PennDOT contracted with Clearwater Construction Inc. of Mercer to conduct the structural steel repairs at a cost of $161,000. The contract completion date is mid-January, but the repairs should wrap up before then, PennDOT said.

John Hilton

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