|COMMISSION NEWS RELEASE|
|Pa. Turnpike Approves 2011 Toll Increase with E-ZPass Incentive
Most Pa. Turnpike travelers will see a 3 percent toll increase beginning Jan. 2
|HARRISBURG, PA (07/15/2010)(readMedia)-- E-ZPass customers will pay 3 percent more to drive most of Pennsylvania's toll roads next year under a new fare schedule approved earlier this week by the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission. Almost two-thirds of Pa. Turnpike users pay electronically via E-ZPass. The toll for cash-paying motorists will increase by 10 percent. The two new rates combine for an overall toll increase of approximately 5 percent, which is expected to generate an estimated $35 million in new revenues.
The new toll rates - which take effect at 12:01 a.m. on Sunday, Jan. 2, 2011 - mark the first time E-ZPass users will pay lower tolls than cash customers on the Pennsylvania Turnpike since the electronic toll-collection system was begun in the Commonwealth a decade ago.
"We believe it's essential to encourage more consumers to get E-ZPass. Besides the enhanced convenience for motorists, it's four times more efficient, processing up to 1,200 vehicles per hour compared to 300 per hour in a cash lane," said Pa. Turnpike CEO Joe Brimmeier. "Electronic toll collection is also more economical, allowing us to better manage traffic and increase capacity without adding toll-plaza lanes to accommodate growth. Plus, E-ZPass reduces idling at interchanges, which is better for the environment."
The lower tolls will apply to all private and commercial E-ZPass customers regardless of issuing agency or state in which their account was established. There are presently 24 E-ZPass agencies in 14 states, largely in the Northeastern U.S. The Pennsylvania Turnpike manages more than 850,000 active E-ZPass accounts (including trucks and passenger vehicles) with a total of over 1.2 million Pennsylvania Turnpike E-ZPass transponders in use. Nationally, there are more than 20 million transponders in use on E-ZPass toll roads and bridges today.
The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission has increased tolls annually since 2009 as a result of Act 44 of 2007. Act 44 and the Funding Agreement with PennDOT require the Commission to fix and adjust toll rates as needed to meet funding and other financial obligations. Through Act 44, passed by the General Assembly and signed by Gov. Rendell in July 2007, the Turnpike has supplied $2.5 billion in supplemental funding to PennDOT. Pursuant to Act 44, the Turnpike is obligated to pay PennDOT $450 million annually over the remaining 47-year term of the Funding Agreement despite the federal rejection of the state's I-80 tolling proposal.
New revenue from the toll increase - only the eighth in 70 years - will fund the Turnpike's fiscal 2011 financial obligations including $450 million to PennDOT to satisfy the Turnpike's Act 44 requirement, $420 million to support the Turnpike's capital-improvement plan, $306 million for Turnpike operating expenses and $298.5 million in debt-service payments.
The Commission increased tolls in January 2010 by 3 percent and January 2009 by 25 percent to meet its Act 44 obligations. Before 2009, the last time the Commission increased tolls was August 2004.
"In announcing this increase, I want to make it clear to our customers and to all Pennsylvanians that we've done our best to streamline operations and become more efficient - especially after the economic downturn that impacted us as it has every other business," Brimmeier added. "The Turnpike has 200 fewer employees now than at any time in the past decade, yet we're responsible for more traffic, more highway miles and more investment in our state's ground-transportation infrastructure."
Even with a 10 percent reduction in workforce, the Turnpike accommodates 30 million more annual vehicles, has built and is operating 188 new lane miles and brings in nearly double the annual revenues compared to 10 years ago.
"Each time we build a new piece of tolled expressway or add lanes during a six-lane widening project, that creates more miles to take care of for maintenance crews," Brimmeier said. "But, by asking more of our employees, we've been able to address maintenance needs – more plowing, more mowing, more line painting – while at the same time realizing a cutback in workforce."
In addition to workforce reductions, the Commission has effectively controlled costs by keeping a lid on expenses, considerably reducing operating-cost increases. Though it's seen operating expenses go up nearly 6 percent a year over the past decade, the Commission has cut those increases in half this fiscal year and last fiscal year. It also reduced expenses throughout the organization by trimming or eliminating costs for conferences, travel, utilities, building security and other such expenses.
To calculate the new, 2011 toll rates, the Commission will employ the following rounding rules: E-ZPass rates are to be increased 3 percent and rounded to the nearest penny, and cash rates are to be increased by 10 percent and rounded up to the nearest nickel. A complete, online toll schedule will be available this fall at www.paturnpike.com under the "Toll Info" menu. NOTE: Toll rates on the Findlay Connector/Toll I-576 (coin machines) near Pittsburgh International Airport will remain at their current level.
Getting E-ZPass is simple: Most Pennsylvania Turnpike customers join online at www.paturnpike.com or by calling 1-877-Penn-Pass (1-877-736-6727). Some Pennsylvania grocery retailers also offer E-ZPass sign-ups at the customer-service desks, including Acme Markets, Karns Foods, Giant Eagle and GetGo. Many of the state's AAA offices offer transponder sales, and there are E-ZPass vending machines called Tag Tellers at select Pennsylvania Turnpike travel plazas.