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Turnpike Cash Tolls Increase 10 Percent Jan. 1
Written by Allison Czapp, Correspondent

        Travelers paying cash for tolls on the Pennsylvania Turnpike will face a 10 percent rate hike beginning Jan. 1, but toll rates will hold steady for E-ZPass users as a way to encourage more people to utilize the program. The increase marks the fourth turnpike rate hike in as many years.

        According to a Turnpike Commission press release, after the new fares take effect, the most-common cash toll for passenger vehicles will increase from $1.10 to $1.25, while the most-common cash toll for a standard commercial-truck classification (Class 5) will rise from $8.95 to $9.85. The 2012 fares were determined by applying a 10 percent increase on top of the 2011 fare then rounding up to the nearest nickel.
        The latest increase means E-ZPass users will pay about 17 percent less than those who pay cash.
        Turnpike Chairman William K. Lieberman in the release noted that “nearly two-thirds of travelers already use E-ZPass,” which means “only about a third of our customers will be affected.”
        The rate increase follows a similar hike last January, when cash-paying customers faced an additional 10 percent charge and E-ZPass customers faced a 3 percent increase.             Lieberman in the release said that E-ZPass was exempt from the rate increase in 2012 to encourage more people to use the program.
        “We believe it’s important to encourage more travelers to switch to E-ZPass because of the numerous benefits, including economic, environmental and customer-safety advantages. Collecting tolls electronically is not only safer, faster and more convenient for customers, but it is better for the environment because it helps diminish idling at the toll plazas and also reduces the turnpike’s operating costs,” he said.
        According to the Commission, it costs about $1 per transaction to collect a cash toll, compared with less than 25 cents per transaction to collect tolls with E-ZPass. Currently, there are 24 E-ZPass agencies in 14 states, largely in the Northeastern U.S., and more than 20 million E-ZPass transponders in use on toll roads, bridges and tunnels nationwide.
        The 2012 increase is needed, in part, to satisfy the Turnpike’s annual $450 million funding obligation to the state, as mandated by Act 44. Under the law, which was established in 2007, the commission must use tollbooth revenue to help underwrite a transportation-funding shortfall. To date the, the commission has provided more than $3 billion to the state. The 2012 toll increase will be the fourth rate hike needed to meet the debt-service costs associated with Act 44.
        Of the $450 million paid in 2012, $250 million will be used for transit agencies statewide and $200 million will be use to fund non-turnpike road and bridge projects.
        Drivers will face additional increases in 2013 and 2014, as the commission also approved overall toll-revenue increases of 3 percent for both years. However, there are no details yet about how much rates will increase for cash and E-ZPass customers in those years.





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