By Tony Romeo

HARRISBURG, Pa. (CBS) — The state auditor general today renewed his concerns that mounting debt at the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission will result in massive toll hikes for motorists.

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The state House and Senate Transportation Committees continued their joint hearing on growing debt at the Turnpike Commission as it meets its mandate to provide hundreds of millions of dollars each year for transportation projects.

Interim CEO Craig Shuey reiterated the commission’s previous position that the plan to finance the debt with annual toll increases is sound (see related story).

“We will manage the load with continued vigilance,” he told the lawmakers.

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But Pennsylvania auditor general Jack Wagner (below) is gravely concerned about the that impact toll increases will have on the already stagnant ridership of the turnpike (see related story).

“They indicated they can manage the debt service for only one reason: they can dramatically increase tolls. Is that what we want to see happen?” Wagner asked.

(Pa. auditor general Jack Wagner makes a presentation to a joint transportation committee of the state legislature. Credit: Tony Romeo)

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Wagner called the debt situation a “noose around the neck” of the turnpike.