LOWER SWATARA TOWNSHIP, Pa. (WHTM) — It’s become a new year’s tradition to have a toll hike on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. This year’s went into effect on Sunday, but it wasn’t as high as it has been in years past.

The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission set a 5% toll increase. It’s the first time in six years it’s been less than 6%.

“The turnpike commission in the summer of 2021 that actually made its final $450 million payment to the Commonwealth for transportation, roads, bridges and transit,” said Carl DeFebo, director of PR & marketing for the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission.

Act 89 of 2013 is bringing that funding obligation down to $50 million.

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“Even though this funding obligation is going down significantly, the turnpike commission is still left with about $8 billion in outstanding debt that we had to use to be able to make those payments to PennDOT since 2009,” DeFebo said.

The most common toll for passenger vehicles will go up to $1.70 with E-ZPass. If you don’t have E-ZPass, you can still use Toll by Plate, but it will cost you twice as much.

The average toll will go up by 20 cents to $4.10.

Last year the turnpike lost 100 million dollars from drivers who didn’t pay.

“If you have EZ Pass, you’re not paying for the leakage because leakage does not come from E-ZPass,” DeFebo said. “It really stems from the toll by plate, which represents only about 15% of our customers overall.”

Many drivers are upset at the increases, including Ember Leach, one of the hundreds of toll collectors laid off

“To be honest I think it’s ridiculous that they’re increasing the toll rates and everything due to people being laid off due to COVID and I think that they just shouldn’t do that,” Leach said.

DeFebo says the 82-year-old system requires a significant amount of upkeep and safety upgrades.

“They should have kept it at the same rate. And I think it’s just going to increase over time,” Leach said.

Leach is correct in that regard. Because of all the debt owed, “The turnpike commission is not going to be able to reduce tolls,” DeFebo said. We’re reducing the rate of increase, but that’s going to be around for some time yet before we’re able to kind of get on a place where we’re offering these inflationary around 3% increases.”

The PTC forecasts future toll increases of 5% from through 2025, 4% in 2026, 3.5% in 2027, then 3% annually from 2028 to 2050.

DeFebo says you save nearly 60% on some trips by using E-ZPass.

To sign up for E-ZPass online or find a nearby E-ZPass retailer, click here.

There’s also a new app called PA Toll Pay where toll by plate customers can save 15% by pre-paying.