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Pennsylvania Turnpike's $104M In Unpaid Tolls Draws Senators' Scrutiny

Turnpike's Uncollected Tolls Pennsylvania turnpike highway driving
Keith Srakocic
In this photo made through a windshield, the sensors and lights are seen at the west bound toll gate of the Pennsylvania Turnpike in Cranberry Township, Pa., on Monday, Aug. 30, 2021. More than $104 million in Pennsylvania Turnpike tolls went uncollected last year as the agency fully converted to all-electronic tolling. Turnpike records show the millions of motorists who don’t use E-ZPass have a nearly 1 in 2 chance of riding without paying under the “toll-by-plate” license plate reader system.

Pennsylvania senators grilled turnpike executives over their efforts to collect unpaid tolls that amounted to $104 million last year during a hearing Wednesday prompted by an Associated Press report last week regarding some 11 million rides that generated no revenue for the debt-hobbled agency.

Transportation Committee Chairman Wayne Langerholc, R-Cambria, scolded the turnpike brass for not alerting him to the growing problem that he said “should have been a red flag within your department.”

“Why was this not shared with us until a Right-to-Know (Law) request of the media?" Langerholc asked.

Sen. Marty Flynn, D-Lackawanna, called the $104 million figure “just unacceptible.”

“We're talking about a tenth of billion dollars,” Flynn said.

An internal turnpike report issued in July and obtained by The AP through a Right-to-Know Law request indicated that motorists who do not use E-ZPass have a nearly 1 in 2 chance of riding without paying under the “toll-by-plate” license plate camera system.

Turnpike Chief Executive Mark Compton assured the committee the agency takes the issue “very seriously” and is working to lower the amount of “leakage,” an industry term for free rides.

Langerholc sought more information from turnpike officials and said he has plans for a follow-up hearing, perhaps next week.