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March 17, 2020

Pennsylvania Turnpike halts cash payments to mitigate spread of coronavirus

Transportation Tolls

To mitigate the spread of COVID-19, the Pennsylvania Turnpike is temporarily freezing cash and credit card payments at tolls statewide. Motorists without E-ZPass will be invoiced by mail through the toll system's Toll By Plate program. The measure will remain in place for the time being as the coronavirus pandemic unfolds.

The Pennsylvania Turnpike has temporarily suspended cash and credit card payments in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, calling the move a temporary measure to bolster other statewide efforts.

As of 8 p.m. Monday night, drivers who pass through any of the Turnpike's interchanges will simply continue through the toll at the posted speed limit.

Those who use E-ZPass will continue to operate as they normally do, while motorists without E-ZPass will be billed by mail using the Turnpike's Toll By Plate program.

“This temporary measure is critical to enable us to support the commonwealth in its efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” Turnpike CEO Mark Compton said. “I want to be clear that we will return to normal toll-collection operations as soon as it becomes practical.”

Customers without E-ZPass should continue to the lanes marked “Tickets” on entry and “Cash” on exit. High-speed cameras will capture the license-plate image as vehicles pass by, and the registered owner will receive an invoice within 30 days for trips made through the tolling point.

Invoices can be paid online, by phone or by mail. Customers have 20 days to pay invoices before a second invoice is issued. If the first invoice is not paid, a second invoice will include an additional fee of $5 or the equivalent of 1.5% of the total amount owed, whichever is higher., Turnpike officials said.

Customers are advised to be prepared for some confusion at entry and exit points. Maintaining safe speeds and remaining aware of surroundings is paramount to prevent accidents.

There has been some debate as to how great a danger currency could pose for transmission of COVID-19.

Late last week, a World Health Organization spokesperson said remarks from the United Nations agency were "misrepresented" in the British press.

“WHO did NOT say banknotes would transmit COVID-19, nor have we issued any warnings or statements about this,” WHO spokeswoman Fidla Chaib told Marketwatch. “We were asked if we thought banknotes could transmit COVID-19 and we said you should wash your hands after handling money, especially if handling or eating food.”

The CDC has advised that the virus appears most often to spread from person to person through respiratory droplets, though it is also transmitted from surfaces.

Precautions taken to limit the exchange of currency and credit cards for payment are largely about limiting a potential route of exposure. The same guidelines include regular hand-washing and avoiding touching one's face apply.

Additionally, the Pennsylvania Turnpike has closed all fast food dining and public restrooms inside the King of Prussia Service Plaza in Montgomery County and the Valley Forge and Peter J. Camiel service plazas in Chester County. Portable toilets will be made available for the traveling public.

It is unclear how long the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission plans to keep these measures in place.