The bonded debt increased from $3.8 billion in 2008 to $12.6 billion last year, as the commission borrowed to meet its costs as well as its $450 million a year obligation to the state.
As of Jan. 2018, records show the turnpike had paid $5.9 billion to the state.
The bankers, lawyers and consultants on bond issues pocketed millions in fees. At an average cost of .5 to 1 percent per issue, the fees alone on $6 billion in bonded debt could have added up to anywhere from $30 to $60 million over the last decade.
Turnpike travelers would be paying it off for decades. But no one could accuse the legislators who backed Act 44 of raising taxes.
“We went from bonds going to financing projects to the project being the bonds. Every time I travel the Pennsylvania Turnpike, I wonder where it went,” said Carnegie Mellon University economist Robert Strauss.