Pennsylvania Turnpike tolls could rise to $150 for biggest trucks

| Friday, January 16, 2004

Some truckers would have to pay $150 to cross the state of Pennsylvania if the state’s Turnpike Commission OKs a proposed toll increase.

The proposal would be the first toll increase in 13 years, the Turnpike Commission said in a statement. Commercial vehicles would see an average increase of 5.3 cents per mile, while passenger cars would see an average increase of 1.7 cents per mile. The main line of the turnpike runs 359 miles from the Ohio border to the Delaware River.

The current toll for an 80,000-pound, class 8 truck traveling the entire length of the main line is $98.05, plus a $7.50 cash gateway fee at the Ohio border crossing – a total of $105.55.

According to Carl DeFebo, a public information manager with the Turnpike Authority, if the increase goes into effect, that will increase to $140, plus a $10.75 cash gateway fee at the Ohio border – a total of $150.75.

DeFebo said the increase would average 42.5 percent for the ticketed section of the turnpike. The total increase for the class 8 truck would run $45.20.

The commission said in its statement that the additional money would be used for repairs and to reconstruct portions of the roadway.

“The Pennsylvania Turnpike is America’s first superhighway,” DeFebo said. “It was built in ’38 and ’39, and opened in 1940. Eisenhower signed the Interstate Act in ’54, so that’s 15 years prior to the interstates.

“That’s really the reason for this increase,” he added. “It has to do with our need to renew our infrastructure. I would think that professional drivers more than anyone else can relate to the fact that we really need to rebuild the highway.”

“It has been 13 years since turnpike tolls have gone up, and more than a quarter century since we've had an increase that was earmarked to rebuild the original roadway, ” Pennsylvania Turnpike CEO Joseph G. Brimmeier said in a statement. “Today, our turnpike is safe and reliable. But the cold truth is that it will not be safe and reliable much longer if we do not act now. And the only way we can do that is to increase tolls.”

Other changes could take place if tolls rise. The commission said in a release that some sections of the toll road now posting a 55 mph speed limit might be raised to 65 mph once improvements are made. The speed limit is currently the same for all vehicles.

In addition, the rebuilding is being designed so that the road could be widened to three lanes in each direction; some portions are already being widened, according to a report from Toll Road News.

Commercial vehicles make up between 14 percent and 15 percent of all traffic on the turnpike, DeFebo said. However, the fees they pay make up roughly half of the toll road’s revenue. More than 61,000 commercial vehicles traveled the highway every day in 2002, according to the commission.

The turnpike’s main line, at 359 miles, follows I-76. It begins north and west of Pittsburgh, passes on the east side of that city, heads south and east toward the state capital of Harrisburg, and ends on the north side of Philadelphia. The Northeast Extension of the turnpike, I-476, is roughly 110 miles. It starts in the Philadelphia area, passes by Allentown and Wilkes-Barre, and ends at Clarks Summit near I-81.

The turnpike commissioners are expected to vote on the proposed increase Jan. 20. If they approve the measure, tolls would rise Aug. 1.

--by Mark H. Reddig, associate editor

Mark Reddig can be reached at mark_reddig@landlinemag.com.

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