PA Turnpike to hike E-ZPass rates by 6% in 2021; toll-by-plate rates will leap as much as 45%

Pennsylvania Turnpike
The Pennsylvania Turnpike converted to an electronic tolling system in June and no longer accepts cash or credit cards. Rate hikes for both the E-ZPass and toll-by-plate payment systems will take effect January 2021.

HARRISBURG, Penn. — The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC) announced July 21 that it has approved a 6% toll increase for all E-ZPass rates systemwide as well as for toll-by-plate rates that were established before last month’s permanent conversion to all-electronic tolling (AET) at the following locations:

  • Beaver Valley Expressway (Interstate 376);
  • Delaware River Bridge (New Jersey border);
  • Gateway Toll Plaza (Ohio border);
  • Greensburg Bypass (Pennsylvania Turnpike 66);
  • Keyser Ave. and Clarkes Summit Tolls (Northeastern Extension); and
  • Southern Beltway (Pennsylvania Turnpike 576).

The increase — slated to take effect at 12:01 a.m. on Jan. 3, 2021 — will enable the PTC to continue to maintain and operate its system and ensure safe travel for up to 500,000 daily customers. The PA Turnpike no longer accepts cash or credit cards on the system.

“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 Mark Compton, CEO of the PA Turnpike. “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 PTC’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.

As part of its recent systemwide change in toll operations, the PTC 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 that were 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 the PTC’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; then the vehicle’s 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 have an option to open an E-ZPass account and pay the lower rate.

Compton encourages travelers to consider using E-ZPass, noting that it is the most convenient, least costly way to travel in Pennsylvania and is accepted in all neighboring states and across the eastern U.S. E-ZPass is the largest interoperable toll-collection program in the U.S., consisting of toll agencies in 18 states from Maine to Florida and west to Illinois.

“Currently, 86% of our customers have chosen E-ZPass, with more switching every day. Now that hundreds of grocery stores in the commonwealth offer E-ZPass, chances are you regularly pass by at least one of them,” Compton said. “Because of our low administration and enrollment fees, and the ability to set up an automatically replenished or cash-funded E-ZPass account, there’s simply no reason not to get it.”

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