Tolls on the Pennsylvania Turnpike will increase for a sixth consecutive year come January.
The Turnpike Commission will continue to drive motorists toward E-ZPass with its latest toll hike in an effort to get toll money in advance.
The commission has approved a plan under which motorists who pay with cash will see a 12 percent rate increase in 2014, while customers who pay electronically will only face a hike of two percent. More than 70 percent of the Turnpike's customers pay with E-ZPass, and commission spokesman Carl DeFebo expects that number to grow as the gap between cash and electronic tolls widens.
“Just look at it over the past three years," DeFebo said. "Since 2011, E-ZPass rates only went up by 5 percent, whereas the rates for cash customers went up by 30 percent."
For example, motorists pay $1.40 in cash to travel the 10 miles from Pittsburgh (Monroeville) to Irwin. That will increase to $1.60 in January. Customers using E-ZPass will see their toll rise from $1.02 up to $1.04.
The increases are not unexpected according to DeFebo who says the Turnpike Commission is required to transfer 450 million dollars a year to PennDOT for statewide transportation projects.
“As a matter of fact, Act 44, which was passed in 2007, did call for annual toll increases," he said. "And the Turnpike Commission started those annual increases back in 2009, and we've been making payments since 2007.”
The Turnpike has $4.3 billion in outstanding Act 44 debt, and DeFebo said the commission supports a transportation bill that would modify its obligations under the law. But the state House has yet to act on the measure, which passed the Senate with bipartisan support.
The state Senate Transportation Committee will examine the Turnpike's financial status and reform efforts at a Capitol hearing this week.