By David Tanner, Land Line associate editor
Tolls on the Pennsylvania Turnpike are set to increase for the fourth time since 2009. Officials say it’s to meet the demands of a state law that allows for hundreds of millions of dollars in toll revenue to be diverted to other projects around the state, including mass transit.
Customers paying cash will see a 10 percent increase in fares effective Jan. 1, 2012, according to the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission. E-ZPass customers, however, will not see a toll increase this time around. E-ZPass customers who are already saving money off the cash rate will be saving approximately 17 percent once the 2012 rates take effect.
“Implementing a cash-only toll increase accomplishes two essential goals,” CEO Roger Nutt said in a statement. “It generates the revenue we need to satisfy our annual funding obligation to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and it encourages more travelers to sign up for E-ZPass.”
The obligation he is referring to is the $450 million in toll revenue the Turnpike Commission must pay to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation each year as part of Act 44. Since 2007, the year the act became law, the Turnpike Commission has paid $2.95 billion to the state for highway, bridge and transit projects.
As truckers and other highway users may remember, Act 44 is also the law that calls for Interstate 80 to be converted into a toll road in the Keystone State. Tolls on I-80 have not materialized mainly because the state couldn’t prove to the Federal Highway Administration that 100 percent of I-80 tolls would stay with the roadway – one of the strict guidelines of a pilot program that allows certain existing interstates to become toll roads.
OOIDA members and leadership fought against the I-80 toll proposal, and they continue to oppose tolls on existing highway capacity. The Association was well represented in the state capital of Harrisburg during protest events in 2007.
In 2008, OOIDA helped ward off an attempt by then Gov. Ed Rendell to sell off the Pennsylvania Turnpike to private investors from Spain and New York. A bill that would have permitted a long-term lease of the pike stalled out in a legislative committee.
The Pennsylvania Turnpike opened in 1940 and was known as America’s First Superhighway. Tolls increased just five times during the first 68 years of operation. The 2012 increase will be the fourth time fares have gone up since 2009.
In addition to raising the cash toll in 2012, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission is making adjustments to its commercial volume-discount program.
The current 15 percent volume discount will be eliminated – all E-ZPass customers will be saving 17 percent – but customers that rack up $5,000 to $10,000 in tolls in a month will save an additional 5 percent, and customers incurring more than $10,000 in monthly tolls will save an additional 10 percent, according to the Turnpike Commission.
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