2008-11-27 / Local & State

Turnpike Begins Layoffs As Buyout Period Ends

By Mark Scolforo ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - The Pennsylvania Turnpike began laying off employees Thursday after only 20 workers accepted voluntary buyout offers designed to offset falling traffic numbers and declining toll revenues.

Turnpike CEO Joe Brimmeier said his goal is to reduce payroll expenses by 7 to 10 percent, so more people will be let go in the coming weeks.

"This, unfortunately, cannot be a one-day undertaking because we have almost 2,300 employees spread, literally, across the entire commonwealth,'' Brimmeier said in a news release.

He called the layoffs a difficult and uncomfortable process.

Turnpike spokesman Carl DeFebo said 12 people were let go from the turnpike's Highspire headquarters, but a statewide total was not available. Details about which positions were affected were not disclosed.

"The turnpike is not immune to financial instabilities that affect the business sector,'' Brimmeier said. "To continue to operate responsibly, we have to respond to economic conditions in the same manner as the private sector.''

Workers had until Monday to decide whether to sign up for a "voluntary departure program'' that offered two weeks of pay for each five years of service, to a maximum of eight weeks.

Summer traffic volume dropped by 1.6 percent compared with last year, and the Turnpike Commission is expecting an overall 4.4 percent revenue shortfall for the current fiscal

The turnpike wants to cut expenses by $10 million immediately, with further cost savings to be identified later.

Brimmeier has said the 545-mile highway system will not reduce services and intends to follow through on a $500 million-a-year capital improvement effort.

The turnpike system's 359-mile main stem runs from the Delaware River to the Ohio line; it also includes a 110-mile northeastern extension from Philadelphia to Scranton, as well as western expansions. The turnpike served 185 million vehicles in 2007.

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