Pa. Turnpike reminds motorists of toll increase starting sunday

The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission reminds motorists that toll rates will increase Jan. 5 by 12 percent for cash customers and 2 percent for E-ZPass customers. The new rates take effect at 12:01 a.m. this Sunday. With the increase, E-ZPass customers, who today see about a 25-percent savings on tolls, will save at least 35 percent compared to cash.

Turnpike tolls are increased each year to support ground-transportation needs and enhance traveler safety across the state. These annual increases are vital in generating revenues that enable the PTC to help improve the safety and efficiency of the commonwealth’s roadways, bridges and transit systems. New revenues are necessary to:

· continue to effectively and efficiently maintain and operate the 550-mile Pennsylvania Turnpike system;

· remain focused on efforts to expand, modernize and widen the Pennsylvania Turnpike, parts of which are nearly 75 years old; and

· supply needed funding to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) for investment in off-turnpike road and bridge improvements as well as in public transit.

A transportation-funding law known as Act 89 lowered the amount of funding that the PTC provides to PennDOT under Act 44 of 2007. With the new law, the PTC’s annual payments to PennDOT will remain at $450 million for the next eight years — through June of 2022. But, starting in fiscal year 2023, the payments drop to $50 million per year until the Act 44 agreement ends in 2057.

“We’re grateful to the general assembly and Governor Corbett for the long-term financial relief the PTC saw under Act 89,” said Turnpike CEO Mark Compton. “However, it does not erase our debt or end our current Act-44 funding obligation. As a result, the PTC will need to continue to increase tolls annually for the foreseeable future.”

The PTC has transferred almost $4.1 billion to PennDOT in the last six years to meet Act 44 obligations, and it has incurred almost $4.6 billion in bond debt since 2007 to finance those payments. Although the end result of Act 89 is that the PTC’s total obligation to PennDOT over the 50-year term of Act 44 is cut significantly, from $24 billion to $8 billion, it does not indicate an end to the commission’s financial responsibility to the commonwealth.

The toll increase is also essential to fund the Turnpike’s own capital plan, focused largely on total reconstruction and widening projects in which the highway is completely rebuilt from the ground up and expanded from four to six lanes. So far the commission has rebuilt more than 100 miles of its system at an average cost of roughly $20 million per mile.

The Turnpike Commission hopes to increase E-ZPass enrollment because it’s less costly to process an electronic transaction compared to a cash transaction. The PTC began offering lower rates to E-ZPass users starting in January 2011. Today, more than 70 percent of Pennsylvania Turnpike travelers use E-ZPass.

Many customers get E-ZPass online at www.paturnpike.com or by calling 1-877-PENN-PASS (1-877-736-6727). Customers can also buy an E-ZPass GoPak at more than 300 retailers across the state, including most AAA offices and at certain stores in these chains: Acme, Giant Eagle and GetGo, Karns, Walmart, Wegmans and coming soon to the Sunoco A-Plus convenience stores at all Pennsylvania Turnpike service plazas. The E-ZPass GoPak allows travelers to obtain a transponder that is already activated and can be used immediately.

For a comprehensive list of E-ZPass retail locations, visit www.paturnpike.com/ezpass .

A Pennsylvania Turnpike E-ZPass can be used on any toll facility where the purple-and-white 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.