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Another New Year, Another Toll Hike

As of January 6th drivers taking the Pennsylvania Turnpike will be paying higher prices at the tolls.

If you pay with cash, tolls will be 10 percent more expensive than in 2012; rates for E-ZPass users will go up by two percent.  This will be the fifth year in a row the Turnpike Commission approved a toll hike. The toll increase is due to the commission making annual payments to PennDOT for road, bridge, and transit projects as a part of Act 44.

For example, if you get on the turnpike in Pittsburgh (Monroeville) and get off in Breezewood (Exit 161), it will cost you $11.25 in cash compared to $10.20 this past year.  The E-ZPass rate for that distance is rising from $8.62 to $8.79.

But it’s not all bad news. The commission is lowering the yearly fee for using an E-ZPass from six to three dollars.

Commission spokesman Carl DeFebo said the new changes will result in E-ZPass users paying an average of 25 percent less than those paying with cash.

“E-ZPass is better for our customers and it’s better for us as an agency,” said DeFebo. “It’s better for our customers because it’s more convenient, it’s faster, it saves them time, and it saves them money. And from the Turnpike Commission standpoint it’s cheaper for us to process a toll electronically than it is to use the human fare collection methods.”

DeFebo said the commission is working towards a cashless system for the Turnpike. He said it could more than five years to implement that system, but it’s where they’re headed.

“Most of our customers already use E-ZPass,” said DeFebo. “As a matter of fact about 68 percent of our customers statewide already pay electronically. So that’s clearly two thirds of our customers (that) have a stated preference to pay electronically.”

DeFebo said they would like to soon see E-ZPass grow to 75 or 80 percent of their customers.

He said another system they’ve considered is “video tolling” where a camera takes a picture of a car’s license plate and sends the owner an invoice. He said they already have that capability and use it for Turnpike violations, or cars that go through an E-ZPass lane without one.

DeFebo said they’re still pushing for people to use the E-ZPass system because they don’t want the costs of sending out invoices.

E-ZPass transponders are available at the Commission’s websiteand E-Pass GoPaks can be purchased from Giant Eagle, GetGo and AAA offices.