Get politics out: It's the only way to fix the Pennsylvania Turnpike

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It takes more than E-ZPass to be a progressive Pennsylvania Turnpike. How about operating free of political patronage and pay-to-play?

That's the challenge for the state's 514-mile toll road system after the indictment last week of eight people, some of them former turnpike employees, on charges of bid rigging and corruption. And it's a challenge embraced by Mark Compton, the highway's CEO since only Feb. 1.

On Monday Mr. Compton, a former PennDOT deputy secretary and former executive for a civil construction company, pledged: a review of every professional-services contract in the criminal presentment and all current contracts awarded in the time frame of the investigation; reminders to contractors and turnpike workers about the agency's employee code of conduct; and creation of an advisory group to examine turnpike business practices.

We agree with Mr. Compton that turnpike "customers deserve better." But, frankly, nothing changed at the system after similar calls for reform in 1981, 1996 and other years.

The turnpike's CEO may have good intentions, but he serves at the pleasure of commissioners who are appointed by politicians and, in some cases, are former politicians themselves or fundraisers for politicians.

So forgive us if we're not optimistic about change. To reform the Pennsylvania Turnpike, you've got to take politics -- and politically active people -- out altogether.

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