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Pennsylvania Turnpike testing new way of collecting toll money

LOWER SWATARA TOWNSHIP, DAUPHIN COUNTY, Pa. - A new way of collecting toll money is coming to parts of the Pennsylvania Turnpike. When entering or exiting the turnpike drivers must choose to get in E-ZPass  or cash only lanes. That could soon change with new technology.

“It’s safer because you don’t have that cross crossing traffic of E-ZPass traffic trying to get over into their lane and cash trying to get to their lane," said Pennsylvania Turnpike spokesperson Carl Defebo. "So it’s much safer and enables much smoother traffic flow and better mobility."

It's called Toll by Plate. It's being introduced as a pilot program at interchanges in Scranton and Pittsburgh. If all goes as planned, it could be expanded throughout the entire Turnpike by 2022.

“You go through a toll plaza area, we take a picture of your license plate and send a toll invoice or a Toll by Plate invoice to the registered user of that vehicle," said Defebo.

The idea is similar to the technology being used when someone drives through E-ZPass without the device.

“If you go through an E-ZPass lane and you don’t have E-ZPass we take a picture of your license and send you a violation notice in the mail," said Defebo. "This is the same technology except we’re not sending you a violation. We’re sending you a bill.”

As for the future of E-ZPASS? It isn't going anywhere. Cashless tolling will use both E-ZPass and Toll by Plate technology. What would change is entering and exiting ticketing. There would instead be tolling zones you wouldn't have to slow down for between interchanges collecting a flat rate fee.

“The beauty of cashless tolling is, it really freezes up congestion," said Defebo. "And allows mobility at the interchanges because of the tolls are collected on the roadway in between exits.”

For the pilot program no jobs will be lost. If it were implemented statewide, Defebo said jobs of toll workers could be "up in the air." However, the Pennsylvania Turnpike says they are committed to not laying anyone off but transitioning them into different jobs within the Turnpike.