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Turnpike tolls about to rise

January 3, 2019

Starting this weekend, the pockets of Pennsylvania Turnpike travelers will be picked even further.

At 12:01 a.m. Sunday, tolls will increase 6 percent for cash, E-ZPass and toll-by-plate users.

The most common increase will be 10 cents to $1.40 for E-ZPass travelers and 20 cents to $2.30 for cash customers, according to a press release from the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission. Someone paying cash to drive a passenger car across the entire 359-mile length of the turnpike will pay $58.30, up from $55. The tolls are higher for larger vehicles.

The increase is just one of several since 2009.

“Parts of our roadway are 78 years old, and we owe it to customers, who pay a premium to travel, to invest in our road and make it safer, smoother and wider,” commission CEO Mark Compton said in the release. “This year about 84 percent of our $552 million capital budget is focused on renewing, rebuilding and widening our highway which carried more than 200 million vehicles last year.”

Multiple people at the turnpike’s Somerset rest stop had opinions about the increase.

A woman who identified herself only as Cindy from Pittsburgh said that officials should look at their budget before raising tolls.

“Before they would start doing that, I’d wish they’d look where the waste is,” she said. “I just wish they’d be more like it was their money.”

Virginia truck driver Charles Hampton said he travels the turnpike about every two weeks for his employer, J.B. Hunt.

Hampton said the toll rate doesn’t affect him much because his employer picks up the tab.

“I don’t have to pay out of pocket,” he said, “so it don’t matter to me.”

Cleveland truck driver Rick Neige said he uses the toll road two to three times a month. Neige said he tries to avoid the turnpike, also known as Interstate 76, when possible.

“76? I stay away from it as much as I can,” he said. “Because the tolls are already expensive.

“It’s like $100 from Pittsburgh to Philly. It’s ridiculous.”

Kentucky truck driver Ron Covington said he drives the turnpike about once a month. Covington said that in his experience, Pennsylvania’s toll road is about triple the cost of other states.

“It’s crazy, because it’s already expensive enough,” he said of the planned increase. “I understand it, too, because of the amount of work they’re doing. But they’re making a lot of money.”

In the press release, the increases are partly blamed on the state’s Act 44 of 2007, which mandates that the commission supply the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation with $450 million annually.

In a telephone interview, state Rep. Carl Walker Metzgar, R-Somerset Township, who was not yet in office when the act passed, said that he does not support the increase.

“I think it’s patently unfair that anyone who is using the turnpike in Somerset County be paying to subsidize mass transit in Philadelphia,” Metzgar said. “I don’t think throwing more money at the issue is the solution.”

He added that increased tolls can also have an effect on local infrastructure.

“It puts a greater burden on our secondary roadways,” he said, “because trucks are avoiding the turnpike.”

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