WILKES-BARRE — Toll rates at the Keyser Avenue and Clarks Summit toll plazas on the Northeastern Extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike will not increase until April 2018 — a three-month reprieve — as those sites ready to convert to cashless tolling.
The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission made the announcement at its bimonthly meeting July 18, when it approved a 6 percent toll increase for both E-ZPass and cash customers. The hike is set to take effect at 12:01 a.m. Jan. 7 at most locations.
The Turnpike currently has two cashless-tolling pilot sites — the Delaware River Bridge converted in January 2016, and the Beaver Valley Expressway in the southwestern part of the state made the switch this past April.
Additional cashless-tolling pilot sites are planned at Keyser Avenue, Clarks Summit and the western part of the state.
According to the commission:
• The pilot projects are being implemented without layoffs of full-time employees.
• With cashless tolling, all motorists benefit from the convenience of non-stop travel. Tolls are assessed electronically as vehicles travel through toll plazas or under gantries. There is no need to stop to pay your toll, just keep moving at the posted speed.
• Customers without E-ZPass who pass through a cashless tolling point will be sent a “Toll by Plate” invoice. A picture of the license plate will be taken and an invoice will be mailed to the vehicle’s registered owner. Convenient payment options are available online, by phone and through the mail.
The commission says that agencies that have converted to cashless tolling find it safer, quicker, more convenient for customers, and better for the environment.
“Cashless tolling is safer because customers no longer have to change lanes depending on their payment method which reduces the chance of accidents,” said Kathleen Walter, commission spokesperson. “Because customers no longer have to stop at toll plazas, travel times are shortened and vehicle emissions are reduced.”
In addition, Walter said the growth in E-ZPass usage makes it clear customers support cashless toll collection. E-ZPass now accounts for nearly 80 percent of all Turnpike toll transactions system-wide and is greater than 85 percent at some locations.
The Turnpike’s board made a commitment that no employee will lose their job as part of the pilot projects and that commitment remains. Toll collectors will be relocated to other toll plazas or positions within the system.
The most common toll for a passenger vehicle will increase next year from $1.23 to $1.30 for E-ZPass customers and from $1.95 to $2.10 for cash customers. The most common toll for a Class-5 vehicle — a prevalent tractor-trailer class — will increase from $10.17 to 10.78 for E-ZPass and from $14.45 to $15.35 for cash.
The toll increase — like previous hikes since 2009 — is required to meet the Turnpike’s various funding obligations. These include providing funding to PennDOT to support public transportation statewide and improving the turnpike’s own 550-mile system that is almost 77 years old in stretches.
“The Turnpike Commission is obligated by state law to augment Pennsylvania’s infrastructure needs; in fact, the commission has delivered $5.65 billion in toll-backed funding to PennDOT in the last decade,” said Turnpike CEO Mark Compton. “Today, our annual payments of $450 million enable PennDOT to provide operating support to mass-transit authorities across the state to help ease future fare increases for riders.”
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.