HARRISBURG, Pa. (WTAJ) — The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission approved a six percent toll increase for all E-ZPass rates systemwide and for PA Turnpike TOLL BY PLATE rates that had been established before last month’s permanent conversion to All-Electronic Tolling.
The increase, slated to take effect on January 3, 2021, will enable the Turnpike Commission to continue to maintain and operate its system and ensure safe travel for up to 500,000 daily customers.
“The primary driver of the annual toll-rate increases continues to be our quarterly transit payments to PennDOT and the resulting debt service that comes along with the legislatively mandated funding obligation,” said PA Turnpike CEO Mark Compton. “As a result, the PA Turnpike has delivered almost $7 billion in funding to PennDOT in the last decade, primarily to support mass-transit operations in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.”
Compton said the commission’s debt-service costs on outstanding Act-44 bond debt are $440 million annually and growing; this amount must be paid each year even if the Commission seeks, and is granted, deferment of a quarterly Act-44 payment — as it recently did to partially offset revenue impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
New TOLL BY PLATE Rates Set
As part of its recent systemwide change in toll operations, the Commission today also approved new TOLL BY PLATE rates at toll facilities converted to AET in June. The new rates, which also take effect Jan. 3, 2021, include an average 45% increase over the 2020 cash rate for TOLL BY PLATE motorists to reflect the costs of collections for this tolling method. The new rate will not be applied at the previously mentioned TOLL BY PLATE facilities converted before 2020.
“The new TOLL BY PLATE rate reflects the higher costs the Commission incurs to process the toll and collect payment — a pricing approach used by tolling agencies across the nation to cover the costs of administering AET systems,” Compton explained. “This balanced approach allows us to maintain a lower rate for those choosing a payment method that is less costly to manage, while those who choose a pricier payment option absorb those costs.”
Because of today’s action, the most common toll for a passenger vehicle will increase from $1.50 to $1.60 for E-ZPass customers and from $2.50 to $3.90 for those choosing TOLL BY PLATE. The most common toll for a Class-5 tractor trailer will increase from $12.20 to $13 for E-ZPass and from $17.30 to $26.60 for PA Turnpike TOLL BY PLATE customers.
With the PA Turnpike TOLL BY PLATE option, high-speed cameras capture license-plate images as vehicles pass by. The registered owner receives an invoice for trips made through the tolling point. Invoices can be paid online, by phone or by mail. Upon receipt of a TOLL BY PLATE invoice, recipients do have an option to open an E-ZPass account and pay the lower rate.
The PTC is exploring options to offer TOLL BY PLATE discounts to motorists through pre-registration options. More details on these programs will be announced later this year.