Here’s your six-month warning.
Effective 12:01 a.m. Jan. 3, 2016, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission will begin its eighth consecutive year for toll hikes.
The commission approved a 6 percent toll increase for both EZPass and cash customers on Tuesday. Officials said EZPass users will continue to save about 35 percent on tolls despite the jump.
“Our average toll for our EZPass customers will go from $1.09 to $1.16, and for our cash customers it’ll go from $1.70 to $1.85,” said PA Turnpike CEO Mark Compton.
Passenger vehicles traveling from Monroeville to Breezewood currently pay $13.25 in cash or $9.42 with EZPass. With the increase, costs will climb to approximately $14.05 and $10, respectively.
The annual hikes are an effort to bat down billions in scheduled payments to the state Department of Transportation.
Passed in 2007, Act 44 requires the PA Turnpike Commission pay an annual $450 million to PennDOT for highway and mass-transit projects statewide. Act 89 of 2013 drops those payments to $50 million a year beginning in 2023.
But Act 89 won't affect future hikes, commission spokesman Carl DeFebo said. The commission borrowed funds to make past payments and plans to further increase tolls to pay off its debt, he said. Incremental increases are scheduled through at least 2044.
Auditor General Eugene DePasquale estimated in 2013 that tolls would jump 576 percent over 50 years, from 5.9 cents per mile in 2007 to 40 cents per mile in 2057. For the average customer, a cross-state trip of the future will cost about $144 in tolls.
At an average cost of $25 million a mile, projects funded by tolls replace road features like shoulders, guide rails and medians, widen roadways from four lanes to six and rebuild and expand the roads themselves. DeFebo said it’s taken about 15 years to finish about 120 miles of construction, and they still have about 330 more miles remaining.
“The Pennsylvania Turnpike this year celebrates its 75th birthday and that’s certainly an honor, but it brings with it the great challenge," he said. "The road was built to last basically 50 years.”
The turnpike is like a home, he said.
“There’s maintenance that has to happen, and at some point, you have to tear the house down and start from scratch."
Compton said the commission has transferred $4.75 billion to the Commonwealth for off-turnpike transportation improvements since 2007.