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July 16, 2019

Pennsylvania approves 6% increase on turnpike tolls for 2020

Transportation Tolls
04062018_PA_Turnpike_Fort_Wash_GM Google/StreetView

The cash and cashless E-ZPass lanes at the Fort Washington interchange on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

For the 12th consecutive year, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission voted Tuesday to approve another increase in tolls for 2020, this time by another 6%.

The increase, which applies to both cash an E-ZPass customers, will raise the common toll for a passenger vehicle from $2.30 to $2.50 for cash customers and from $1.40 up to $1.50 for E-ZPass drivers. Class-5 tractor trailers will see an increase from $3.70 to $4.00 for E-ZPass and from $16.30 to $17.30 for cash.

“Since 2007, the commission has increased tolls annually to maintain its aging roads and make good on a funding obligation required by two state laws, Act 44 of 2007 and Act 89 of 2013,” PTC CEO Mark Compton said. “As a result, the commission has delivered $6.6 billion in toll-backed funding to PennDOT in the last dozen years.”

The Pennsylvania Turnpike issued $800 million in municipal bonds last month to help fund $900 million in payments to the commonwealth for the 2019 and 2020 fiscal years. Nearly half of the turnpike's anticipated toll revenue in 2020 — about $1.4 billion — will go toward servicing debt.

Under Act 44, the turnpike commission is required to pay PennDOT $450 million per year through 2022. Those funds are used to support highway, bridge and public transportation projects. Act 89, passed in 2013, reduces that required payment to $50 million starting in 2023.

Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale warned in 2016 that the PTC'S revenue projections and poor record of collecting unpaid tolls could set up a "transportation disaster" in the coming years as funding responsibilities shift.

The turnpike commission is taking measures to contain costs, Compton said.

“We are doing what we can to mind our shop and manage costs as we deal with our economic realities,” Compton said. “For the 2019 fiscal year ending May 31, we're projecting operating expenses to come in almost $40 million under budget while actual expense growth over the 2018 fiscal year is projected to be less than 1%.”

The increase in tolls will also support the turnpike's 10-year plan to preserve the highways.

“Parts of our tollway turn 79 years old on Oct. 1, and we must continue to invest in our road to make it safer, smoother and wider for customers,” Compton said.

Next year's increase will take effect at 12:01 a.m. on Jan. 5, 2020 on all sections and extensions of the turnpike, with the exception of three “cashless” toll facilities in western Pennsylvania (PA Turnpike 376, PA Turnpike 66 and and the Gateway tolling point), where the new tolls will go into effect Oct. 27, 2019.