|COMMISSION NEWS RELEASE|
|Pennsylvania Turnpike Hires Consultant to Study Conversion to All-Electronic Toll Collection
If implemented, cashless system would make Turnpike travel safer, faster and more ‘eco-friendly.’
|The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission today selected a consultant team to conduct a yearlong study on how the 545-mile highway network could switch to a “cashless” toll-collection system commonly known as “All-Electronic Tolling” (AET).
The commission selected the team of McCormick Taylor Inc., Philadelphia, and Wilbur Smith Associates Inc., Columbia, S.C., at its regular bimonthly meeting today and authorized the negotiation and execution of the agreement.
The team will be responsible to prepare a report documenting tolling options available, the general system requirements, estimated costs, traffic-and-revenue impacts and implementation schedule involved with such a conversion.
The team brings a wealth of experience in the tolling industry and specifically for the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, having developed the proposed tolling system for Pennsylvania’s 311-mile Interstate 80. In August, 2007, the Commission engaged McCormick Taylor to spearhead the effort to implement Act 44, the state’s transportation-funding law that called for converting I-80 to a toll highway. The firm has led the engineering and planning for dozens of other major infrastructure projects in Pennsylvania. Wilbur-Smith, another nationally known firm, also brings to the table extensive experience in statewide transportation projects, such as conducting traffic-and-revenue studies for Act 44 of 2007, including the I-80 toll-conversion project.
AET would allow all Pennsylvania Turnpike customers to pay tolls without slowing down or stopping. With AET, traditional tollbooths would be removed and everyone would pay electronically with E-ZPass transponders or new cashless payment options that would be developed for non-E-ZPass customers including visitors and occasional Turnpike users.
These new payment options — sometimes referred to as video tolling or pay-by-plate — would involve capturing an image of a license plate and billing the registered owner of the vehicle for the tolls. Video tolling could allow customers to call or go online to pay tolls before they receive a bill (pre-payment), or just wait for a bill in the mail (post-payment). Non E-ZPass customers could also opt to set up a prepaid, video-toll account tied to their license plate instead of a transponder.
“By eliminating tollbooths, customers could experience a safer, faster and more convenient trip,” said Pa. Turnpike CEO Joe Brimmeier. “All-Electronic Tolling is better for the environment since vehicles aren’t stopped and idling at the toll plazas, which reduces emissions and improves gas mileage.”
Brimmeier stressed that the commission is simply studying the idea at this time, and that no final decision has been made.
“AET is certainly the future of the tolling industry, because, in addition to the numerous customer benefits, it’s more efficient and cost effective for toll-road operators,” Brimmeier said. “If the PTC can realize significant cost savings from such a conversion, then we have an obligation to customers and bondholders to look into it.”
A number of toll agencies across the nation are moving forward with implementing all-electronic or “open-road” tolling, including California, Colorado, Florida, New Jersey, North Carolina and Texas. Many other states are considering the move.
If all-electronic collection is deemed feasible, the study would set a proposed timetable for converting the entire turnpike system including extensions, made up of 62 toll plazas. Presently, nearly two-thirds of all Pa. Turnpike motorists pay with E-ZPass, which was first made available in Pennsylvania in December, 2000.
At present, it is premature to estimate what impact AET conversion could have on Turnpike toll collectors; the feasibility study is not intended to address human-resources issues.