The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission this week approved a 2013 rate schedule that will result in overall toll-revenue growth of 3%. It entails a 10% toll increase for cash-paying customers and a 2% toll increase for those who pay with E-ZPass. With the increase, E-ZPass customers who currently see as much as a 17% savings on Turnpike tolls will save about 25% starting next year. The new rates will become effective on Jan. 6, 2013, at 12:01 a.m.
“Implementing this toll increase generates the needed revenue to satisfy our annual transportation-funding obligation of $450 million to the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, while at the same time helping to boost enrollment in E-ZPass, which has been a longtime commission priority,” said Chief Executive Officer Roger E. Nutt.
The last time tolls were increased for Pennsylvania Turnpike E-ZPass customers was in January 2011, when the commission first introduced the E-ZPass pricing differential.
New revenue from the increase will be allocated to fund debt-service costs associated with the Turnpike Commission’s funding obligation to the commonwealth stemming from a 2007 state law known as Act 44.
“Act 44 expanded the commission’s role by mandating annual contributions to PennDOT for broader, statewide transportation needs, including funding for highways, bridges and public-transit operations,” Nutt said. “To date, the commission has provided $3.4 billion in financial support under that act.”
The commission also lowered the annual service fee paid by E-ZPass account holders; the annual fee for noncommercial customers will drop from $6 to $3 per transponder, beginning Jan. 1, 2013.
The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission also selected a program manager to lead the potential implementation of a cashless, all-electronic tolling (AET) system. The commission voted unanimously to engage HNTB Corp. after a competitive process. HNTB is an internationally recognized firm with deep experience in tolling. The firm has offices in Philadelphia, Norristown, Harrisburg and Pittsburgh; the AET project will be managed from HNTB’s Harrisburg office.
An AET collection system offers numerous advantages to motorists and the agency, including enhanced safety, a cleaner environment, improved customer convenience and operational efficiencies.
“Because of these and other benefits, AET has emerged as much more than a trend in the tolling industry worldwide, and a number of American tolling agencies have gone cashless in recent years,” Nutt said. “But certainly, the Pennsylvania Turnpike is the largest toll system in the U.S. to begin to implement such a system.”
The AET program manager will assist the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission in the study of: work force consulting, outreach and engagement; financial analysis; public and legislative outreach; traffic-and-revenue studies; engineering analysis and design; environmental studies; development of video-tolling collection methods and systems; fare-collection business rules; and customer-service center plans and requirements.
The conversion is expected to take at least five years.