Eight People Charged With Crimes Relating To Pennsylvania Turnpike Contracts

Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission
PTC headquarters building in Harrisburg, Pennslvyania, as seen from the westbound lanes near Exit 247.

A former leader of the Pennsylvania State Senate and seven other people have been charged with crimes related to vendor contracts and other key relationship contracts with the Pennsylvania Turnpike. The eight are charged with a variety of crimes, including conspiracy, commercial bribery, bid rigging, theft and conflict of interest. The charges and investigation were unveiled March 13 in Harrisburg, the home of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Authority’s main offices, which can be seen from the turnpike, itself. One of the people charged in the long-running investigation and criminal case is from Florida, although there was no indication any of the criminal activity was related to Florida’s Turnpike.

The defendants include former Pennsylvania Senate Democratic Leader Bob Mellow, the former chairman of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, Mitchell Rubin, and the former chief executive of the Penna Turnpike, Joe Brimmeier. Raymond Zajicek of Tarpon Springs, Florida, was the the only person charged who was not from Pennsylvania. The remaining defendants include two turnpike vendors, Dennis Miller and Jeffrey Suzenski, and two other former turnpike officials: George Hatalowich, Melvin Shelton. Mr. Zajicek, of Florida, was also once a turnpike official in Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania’s attorney general, Kathleen Kane, said the defendants’ indictments were the result of a long-running probe dating to 2009. Kane was quoted in the Associated Press as saying, “The public has lost untold millions of dollars. The greatest improper influence was exerted over the turnpike’s procurement process.”

Indeed, the way the turnpike chose vendors may have been directed by the former Senate Democratic Leader. Kane said a grand jury found “substantial evidence” Mr. Mellow had directed at least one aide to help political contributors get contracts for work on the turnpike.

The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission released a statement calling the charges indefensible. “If charges against former [Pennsylvania] Turnpike employees are proven,” the statement reads, “we certainly cannot … defend that.

“Without a doubt, the commission remains committed to continuing our efforts to improve the accountability and operations of the Pennsylvania Turnpike,” the statement continues.

Drivers in Pennsylvania who commented on the news story, at least on the Internet, were quite mixed. One man said he would protest “as a statement against corruption” by staying off the turnpike.

Others offered positive feedback about the diligence of the attorney general’s office in helping expose the alleged criminal activity.

VIEW THE PTC STATEMENT HERE

Editor's note: This story has been modified from its original version, which misidentified the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission as the Pennsylvania Turnpike Authority.

Canoe Creek and Turkey Lake Service Plaza Construction

Canoe Creek Service Plaza
Older Google image of the Canoe Creek Service Plaza, as seen on TurnpikeInfo.com from 2009 through 2011.

Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise continues with a multi-year construction project to renovate all service plazas across the turnpike, with the Canoe Creek Service Plaza becoming the latest addition to the list of plazas undergoing renovations. The Canoe Creek travel plaza is located at mile marker 229, just south of the Disney-Area exits in Osceola County. At this time, the gas station remains open, with some food in the convenience store. The only other food available at this time is from the Dunkin’ Donuts restaurant. The food court is undergoing a complete renovation that will not be completed for several months.

Further north, in the heart of the Orlando Metro Area, the Turkey Lake Service Plaza construction continues unabated, with final work on the new food court underway. However, some limited food service is available. Nathan’s Hot Dogs recently reopened, and there is a new convenience store and gas station operating at the travel plaza, located at mile marker 263, between the I-4 and East-West Expressway exits.

The upgrade to Florida Turnpike service plazas will cost about $162-million. It is expected traffic through the service plazas will be largely unaffected by the construction work. A clerk at the Canoe Creek Service Plaza told TurnpikeInfo.com Wednesday night, January 30, the traffic going through the plaza was moving, “pretty good,” and that no construction vehicles were blocking any access.

Ohio Turnpike: New Light Fixtures Close Emergency Lanes

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Ohio Turnpike Construction Update

Construction workers are laying foundations for new light poles along the shoulder of Ohio’s Turnpike, in Lorain County. As a result, the emergency lanes will be closed for about a half-mile stretch of Ohio’s Turnpike, between mile marker 142 and mile marker 143, until Friday, January 10. The closure will affect the eastbound lanes only.

The closures could potentially slow exit traffic approaching the I-80 / I-90 Junction, particularly during peak travel times.

Illinois' Jane Addams Memorial Tollway Construction Update

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Illinois construction update for Jane Addams Memorial Tollway
The Jane Addams Memorial Tollway, which is I-90 west of Chicago, will continue to see emergency lane closures between IL 47 (State Road 47) and Powers Road, and from Powers to Sandalwood. The shoulders for eastbound and westbound traffic will be affected through the end of March, as they have been since the start of the Summer Travel Season in 2012.
The lane closures are part of an Illinois Tollway construction project to add a new interchange at the IL 47 junction, which will help traffic flow for traffic around Elgin, West Dundee and the Whisper Creek Golf Club.
All travel lanes will be open during the construction period, which ends March 31. However, some intermittent lane closures are possible as unexpected construction issues arise.

New Jersey Turnpike

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Northbound travel affected

The Grover Cleveland Service Plaza, located in the Woodbridge Township for northbound drivers on the New Jersey Turnpike, will not be able to offer food service to travelers until further notice. The New Jersey Turnpike Authority announced the food service suspension Monday afternoon, January 7, but did not provide an immediate explanation.

The Thomas Edison Service Plaza, which serves the southbound traffic, is still providing food services at this time.

To get an update of the service plaza food service at the Grover Cleveland Service Plaza, contact the HMSHost contractor at (732) 634-2923.

Indiana Toll Road: Weekly Construction Schedule for January 7 – 13, 2013

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Indiana Toll Road construction schedule

The Indiana Toll Road has released its construction schedule for the week of January 7th through the 13th, with a slew of un-started projects on the list. Most construction matters on the current weekly list are simple survey work and exit lane restrictions.  These will typically impact truckers with wider loads.

However, some crack sealing and repair will lead to lane closures, particularly in the westbound lanes between mile markers 90 to 100, and again from mile markers 120 to 130. Some eastbound crack repair is likely as well. Most closures and lane restrictions are set to happen between 2:00 PM and 5:00 PM.

The attached Mill & Fill Schedule shows the list of projects and corresponding days for the week.

Pennsylvania Turnpike: Trucker Alert for Kittatinny and Blue Mountain Tunnels

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Lane restrictions for Kittatinny and Blue Mtn. Tunnels

Truckers and bus drivers must now use the left lane through the twin tunnels on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, until further notice. The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission issued it’s alert January 2, 2013 in which it restricted commercial traffic to the left lanes between mile markers 195 and 202. The restriction currently affects only the eastbound travel lanes.

The lane restrictions will remain in effect indefinitely; there is no word from PennDOT or the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission of whether the westbound lanes may also be affected.

The right lane of travel will remain open for regular cars and pick-up trucks, as well as other non-commercial traffic traveling through the tunnels. This restriction is near the Blue Mountain Exit of the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

Drivers are asked to carefully monitor highway radio at 1640 AM. Additional updates are being sent to news media, including TurnpikeInfo.com, regarding these lane restrictions.

See the tunnels: Kittatinny and Blue Mountain Tunnels: The Twin Tunnels

Florida’s Turnpike: 45th Street Construction

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Road Construction News

Drivers will be affected by a milling and resurfacing project on Florida’s Turnpike, which got underway January 3, 2013 in Palm Beach County.  The project is expected to take approximately six months to complete and will affect everyone driving both northbound and southbound on the turnpike.

The resurfacing project is happening north of the Okeechobee Boulevard exit, and will impact drivers between mile marker 102 and 104. Florida’s Department of Transportation has notified news media the project will result in lane closures during night hours, usually between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m., Sundays through Thursdays, for the duration of the project.

The project will involve resurfacing, guard-rail replacement, erosion control development, desilting of drainage pipes and bridge deck repairs.