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July 18, 2017

Prepare, drivers: Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission approves 6 percent toll increase

State auditor general: unsustainable increases 'pricing middle-class families out'

The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission on Tuesday approved a six percent toll hike, placing a heavier burden on drivers as the agency struggles to meet funding obligations.•

The increase will take effect January 7, 2018, and will apply to both E-ZPass and cash customers. Passenger vehicles will see E-ZPass tolls rise from $1.23 to $1.30, while cash customers will pay $2.10, up from $1.95. For Class-5 vehicles including large tractor-trailers, E-ZPass tolls will jump from $10.17 to $10.78 and cash tolls will go from $14.45 to $15.35.

“The Turnpike Commission is obligated by state law to augment Pennsylvania’s infrastructure needs; in fact, the commission has delivered $5.65 billion in toll-backed funding to PennDOT in the last decade,” said PA Turnpike CEO Mark Compton. “Today, our annual payments of $450 million enable PennDOT to provide operating support to mass-transit authorities across the state to help ease future fare increases for riders.”

One portion of the Pennsylvania Turnpike System will be exempt from the new rates, while two other locations will see the increase delayed until April 2018:

• There will be no 2018 increase for E-ZPass or Toll-By-Plate customers at the Delaware River Bridge westbound cashless tolling point (#359) in Bucks County.

• Toll rates at the Keyser Avenue (#122) and Clarks Summit (#131) toll plazas on the Northeastern Extension (I-476) in Lackawanna County will not increase until April 2018 as a part of the planned conversion to cashless tolling (rates will be set closer to the conversion date using a new vehicle-classification system)

• Toll rates at the Findlay Connector (PA Turnpike 576, Allegheny and Washington counties) will not increase until April 2018 as a part of the planned conversion to cashless tolling (rates will be set closer to the conversion date using a new vehicle-classification system)

The turnpike commission projects to annually increase tolls by anywhere from three to six percent until 2044. 

In addition to its obligations to PennDOT, the system has struggled to collect fines from violators. Total uncollected fines reached as high as $33 million in 2015, prompting the PTC to petition state lawmakers to pass a law that would prevent registration renewals for those who haven't paid.

Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, whose audit had predicted the 6 percent increase, said Tuesday he hopes to see legislation passed that will identify other revenue sources for the $450 million the PTC is annually required to pay PennDOT.

"More broadly speaking, I think this is going to drive people off of the Turnpike and that will create more pressure on some of the smaller roads that go along the Turnpike," DePasquale said. "Also, as the Turnpike gets less riders, it’s going to have to raise tolls even more which is going to be unsustainable. It used to be an affordable trip, but now they are pricing middle-class families out of being able to drive on the Turnpike."

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