Permanent all-electric tolling forces Pennsylvania Turnpike to lay off hundreds of toll collectors

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cars driving on Pennsylvania Trunpike
The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission voted Tuesday to lay off 500 fare collectors.

HARRISBURG, Pa. — The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission voted Tuesday, June 2, to lay off 500 fare collectors and other toll workers and make the entire interstate network a cashless system.

The cuts are the latest development in the agency’s multiyear transition from a system that largely relied on workers stationed in toll booths to collect cash to one that uses E-ZPass as well as automated license-plate readers that generate mailed bills.

Messages seeking comment were not returned by Teamsters officials at union offices in the Philadelphia suburbs and Pittsburgh. The turnpike said employees were notified earlier Tuesday.

The Turnpike Commission said a conversion to all-electronic tolling that was adopted in mid-March because of the COVID-19 pandemic will become permanent.

Traffic has fallen by almost half compared to a year ago, and the agency said it also wanted to avoid having to shut down entire interchanges when a worker has tested positive for the coronavirus.

“I deeply regret that we have reached this point, but the world has been irrevocably changed by the global pandemic,” chief executive Mark Compton said in a statement. “This pandemic had a much greater impact than anyone could have foreseen.”

The job losses will begin June 18, and the commission said some health benefits will remain in place for two years.

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