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Panel hires PennDOT administrator as turnpike chief

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By Tom Fontaine
Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012, 6:20 p.m.
 

The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission on Tuesday hired PennDOT Deputy Secretary Mark Compton to replace Roger Nutt as its chief executive, a spokesman said.

Compton, 39, of Lancaster County has directed several PennDOT bureaus as deputy secretary, including infrastructure and operations, fiscal management and human resources.

“I look forward to my role in shaping the policies and programs that will position the turnpike as a leader at this critical point in time of meeting the commonwealth's needs for transportation services,” Compton said in a statement.

The turnpike is the target of a state grand jury probe and has $7.8 billion in debt, an amount that has tripled since legislators passed a law five years ago that requires it to give PennDOT $450 million a year. The agency borrowed money and raised tolls annually to meet the requirement.

Compton's boss, PennDOT Secretary Barry Schoch, said he was “saddened to be losing a man of Mark's caliber and talent.”

But Schoch said, “I'm excited for him as he takes on the new role of turnpike CEO. Mark is a leader who brings a high level of enthusiasm and excitement to his job, and his skills and commitment to excellence will serve turnpike users extremely well in the years ahead.”

Compton held government posts that included stints as the state Department of Community and Economic Development's marketing director and as a PennDOT administrative assistant, as well as staff posts under former Gov. Tom Ridge and former U.S. Rep. William Clinger, R-Warren. He held executive jobs with construction and development companies.

The five-member Turnpike Commission hired Compton in a unanimous vote. He will begin working with the agency on Feb. 1. Salary information was not immediately available.

“Mark is a highly qualified, highly capable individual who is respected by many in the transportation industry,” said Commission Chairman William K. Lieberman of Squirrel Hill, adding he will continue work to streamline operations and modernize the agency.

Among modernization projects, the turnpike plans to convert to all-electronic tolling within five years. A study released last spring predicted the move could reduce toll collection costs at least $67 million a year; the agency's operating budget is $326.7 million this fiscal year. The move would eliminate more than 600 toll collector jobs, though an unknown number of those workers are expected to stay on with the agency in other capacities.

Nutt resigned in October, citing heart problems. He was paid $196,000 a year.

Tom Fontaine is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7847 or tfontaine@tribweb.com.

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