Roger Nutt will resign as chief executive officer of the embattled Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission at the end of the month.
Nutt, 72, who ran the agency for 19 months, cited health concerns in a letter to commission chairman William Lieberman. Doctors treated him this year for heart problems. “I have felt fatigued and stressed and not able to perform as your CEO at the level that should be expected of me,” Nutt said.
The Turnpike’s chief operating officer, Craig Shuey, will be acting CEO. A spokesman said the Turnpike has no timetable for a successor.
The commission has been under a microscope since January, when state auditor general Jack Wagner warned that its existence is in jeopardy unless Pennsylvania does not amend or appeal a 2007 law that requires it to provide $450 million annually in infrastructure funding to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation for mass transit and other concerns.
Wagner, comparing the Turnpike to distressed capital city Harrisburg and bankrupt Jefferson County, Ala., said the Turnpike was in danger of defaulting on its debt. The commission responded by saying no immediate crisis existed.
Long-term turnpike debt has spiraled to $7.3 billion from $2.6 billion, or 181%, since the passage of the law, known commonly as Act 44.
“The statistics show clearly that the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission is drowning in debt due to the burdens placed on it by Act 44,” Wagner said in January.
The law hinged on Federal Highway Administration approval to toll Interstate 80, a major east-west road, but the highway agency rejected the tolling proposal in 2010, which limited the Turnpike Commission’s potential revenue stream.
Last month, Pennsylvania’s House held a public hearing on revising Act 44. “We’re flat-ass broke in this state,” said Rep. Rick Geist, chairman of the House Transportation Committee.
In his resignation letter, Nutt touted the 50% expansion of the capital program, changing the procurement process, creating a diversity office and a office of compliance as his biggest accomplishments.
Next week, the Turnpike intends to sell $123 million in Series 2012B subordinated revenue bonds.