The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC) today approved a five percent toll increase for both E-ZPass and cash customers; the increase will take effect at 12:01 a.m. on Jan. 4, 2015. With the increase, the most common toll for a Class-1 (passenger) vehicle next year will climb from $1.04 to $1.09 for E-ZPass customers and from $1.60 to $1.70 for cash customers. The most common toll for a Class-5 vehicle— a prevalent tractor-trailer class — will increase from $8.62 to $9.05 for E-ZPass customers and from $12.15 to $12.80 for cash customers.
While the increase affects cash and E-ZPass rates similarly, E-ZPass customers will continue to save at least 35 percent on PA Turnpike tolls in 2015.
“Yearly Turnpike toll increases are necessary for the commission to satisfy the financial plan outlined under a transportation-funding law enacted seven years ago,” said PA Turnpike CEO Mark Compton. “Under Act 44 of 2007, the PTC must make annual transportation-funding payments to PennDOT while at the same time allocating funding to maintain and improve our own 550-plus mile system — parts of which turn 75 years old next year.”
The 2015 toll increase will be the seventh annual rate increase needed under Act 44 of 2007. It is the first time since 2011 that E-ZPass rates have gone up by the same percent as cash rates. E-ZPass tolls have increased by seven percent since lower rates for E-ZPass were first introduced in 2011.
“It is important our customers understand that we continue to work hard to hold down costs as we ask motorists to pay more at the tollbooth,” Compton said. “In fact, we have kept discretionary operating-cost increases under four percent a year, and we have reduced our toll-collector complement with the rising popularity of E-ZPass.”
Compton explained that factors such as set employee-pension costs and fluctuating winter-maintenance expenses restrict deeper operating-budget cuts, but that the PTC is committed to holding expenses to the minimum. He said the commission has almost 300 fewer collectors on staff since the implementation of E-ZPass; today, E-ZPass is used by 73 percent of all PA Turnpike customers.
“Over the last few years, the Commission has taken several steps to increase efficiency and accountability and to provide a better transportation value,” Compton said. “We will continue to improve business practices and work to keep toll increases to a minimum.”
Since the PTC started making annual payments to PennDOT, it has thus far provided $4.3 billion for roads, bridges and transit assistance statewide. Last year’s transportation-funding law, Act 89, lessened the PTC’s funding requirement to PennDOT. The PTC’s annual payments remain at $450 million for eight more years, through June of 2022. But, starting in fiscal year 2023, those payments will drop to $50 million per year until the Act-44 agreement ends in 2057.
“While Act 89 does provide long-term financial relief, it does not eliminate our debt or funding obligation,” said Compton. “Therefore, the commission will need to continue to increase tolls annually for the foreseeable future.”
The Turnpike Commission has been working to boost E-ZPass enrollment because it’s less costly to process tolls electronically. Many customers get E-ZPass at www.paturnpike.com or by calling 1-877-PENN-PASS (1-877-736-6727).
Customers can buy an E-ZPass GoPak at more than 300 Pennsylvania retailers, including most AAA branch offices and at certain stores in these chains: Acme, Giant Eagle and GetGo, Karns, Kuhn’s, Walmart, Wegmans and at Sunoco A-Plus stores inside Turnpike service plazas. The E-ZPass GoPak allows travelers to obtain a transponder that can be used immediately.
It costs $38 to purchase an E-ZPass using a credit or debit card to set up an auto-replenishment account; the cost includes a $35 toll balance plus the $3 annual fee. In addition, E-ZPass retailers charge a one-time convenience fee (there is no such fee to join online or by phone). For a list of E-ZPass retail locations, visit www.paturnpike.com/ezpass.
A PA Turnpike E-ZPass can be used on any toll facility where the purple-and-white E-ZPass logo is shown. Presently, there are 25 E-ZPass agencies in 15 states, largely in the Northeastern U.S., and more than 24 million E-ZPass transponders in use on toll roads, bridges and tunnels nationwide.
(Source: Pa. Turnpike Commission)