|PA Turnpike Celebrates Opening of Route 903 ‘E-ZPass-Only’ Interchange
New $40 million connection provides enhanced safety and access for region.
“Today, we celebrate a milestone in the history of the PA Turnpike: The Route 903 Interchange is the first E-ZPass Only Interchange on the Northeastern Extension,” Compton said. “It’s exciting to finally make this new connection available to customers, since many have patiently watched this project evolve, anticipating opening day.”
The Route 903 E-ZPass Only Interchange, (Exit 87), is located between the Turnpike’s Mahoning Valley (Exit 74) and Pocono (Exit 95) interchanges. Designated as the Jim Thorpe/Lake Harmony exit, it allows E-ZPass customers — commonly referred to as “tag holders” — to get on and off the Northeastern Extension in either direction. The $40 million facility was funded exclusively by PA Turnpike toll revenues.
The cost for a passenger vehicle (Class 1) from the Route 903 Interchange to other Northeastern Extension exits is: $2.40 to the Wyoming Valley Toll Plaza (#112); $1.07 to the Pocono Exit (#95); $1.08 to the Mahoning Valley Exit (#74); $2.61 to the Lehigh Valley Exit (#56); and $5.43 to the Mid-County Interchange (#20). For a complete list of all trips, including commercial vehicles, visit the online toll calculator at https://www.paturnpike.com/toll/tollmileage.aspx.
“The Route 903 Interchange is all about safety, efficiency and convenience for our customers and all travelers in the beautiful Pocono Mountains area,” Compton said. “It will shorten trip times, reduce traffic volumes at neighboring Turnpike interchanges and ease seasonal congestion on Route 903, I-476 and other roadways.”
The 20-mile distance between the Mahoning Valley and Pocono exits is the longest on the Northeastern Extension without an interchange and among the longest on the entire 550-mile PA Turnpike system.
From the start, the Route 903 Interchange project has been a unified effort requiring cooperation with officials on township, county and state levels; these officials have been instrumental in the development of the project since its inception, advocating the interchange because of its value to residents.
“This interchange is bringing both immediate and long-term benefits to the region by improving mobility and making the roads safer for those who live, work and play here,” said Former Speaker of the House of Representatives Keith McCall, an early project supporter during planning and initial construction stages. “It is going to make a truly positive difference for so many people in Northern Carbon County, and I am both grateful and delighted to be here today to celebrate this significant occasion.”
Ongoing growth in the region’s residential and tourism sectors also factored into the need for enhanced accessibility brought about by such a new connection.
“This new interchange is a major infrastructure improvement for our region. It represents an opportunity for economic development in Carbon County and the rest of the Poconos,” said State Senator John Yudichak. “Tourism is a major regional industry, and now our popular destinations are more accessible to more visitors.”
Compton reminded travelers that the interchange is solely for use by E-ZPass tag holders.
“This interchange is different than the others on the Northeastern Extension. There are no tollbooths. Toll tickets and cash won’t be accepted forms of payment,” Compton said. “You’ll need an active E-ZPass transponder with an account in good standing to use it.”
Compton said the Turnpike has made E-ZPass easy to get by partnering with AAA offices as well as grocery and convenience stores across the state. In fact, nearly 500 Pennsylvania locations sell E-ZPass “GoPaks” — which contain a live, ready-to-use transponder. Regionally, there are 10 locations within 20 miles of the Route 903 Interchange where travelers can pick up an E-ZPass. Resellers nearby include: the Sunoco A-Plus store inside the Turnpike’s Hickory Run Service Plaza; Walmart stores in Mount Pocono, Lehighton and Wilkes-Barre; A&S Katz messenger offices in Broadheadsville and Stroudsburg; Giant Foods in Lehighton; AAA offices in Stroudsburg and Wilkes-Barre; and Wegmans in Wilkes-Barre.
The E-ZPass GoPak costs $38, which includes a $3 initial annual fee and a $35 toll balance. In addition, retail locations assess a convenience fee of $2 to $7 upon purchase. After picking up a GoPak, tag holders must register the transponder within 72 hours. To register the device, or to sign up for E-ZPass by phone or online, call 1-877-PENN-PASS or visit www.paturnpike.com then click “E-ZPass.”
“Today most customers, more than 75 percent, choose to pay with E-ZPass, which has been available on the PA Turnpike for 15 years,” said Compton. “PA Turnpike travelers with an E-ZPass pay up to 35 percent less than cash-paying customers — one of the main reasons for its popularity.”
The PA Turnpike manages 1.6 million active E-ZPass accounts, with 2.2 million transponders in circulation. With more than 28 million E-ZPass tags in circulation among 26 toll agencies in 15 states, E-ZPass is the world’s largest interoperable tolling system.
“If you do not have an E-ZPass, you cannot use the Route 903 Interchange — a message I want to make perfectly clear,” Compton said. “So please, get an E-ZPass before you get on or off the Northeastern Extension at Interchange 87.”
If a non-E-ZPass motorist attempts to exit — intentionally or otherwise — an image of the license plate will be captured, and the PA Turnpike will mail a violation notice to the registered owner. The first violation notice will include the toll from the furthest entry point (the Ohio line in this case) plus a $25 fee. Those who enter the Turnpike system without E-ZPass cannot obtain a toll ticket (proof of entry) to show upon exit and will be charged from the furthest entry point.
The Route 903 Interchange was constructed by New Enterprise Stone and Lime Co. Inc., New Enterprise, Pa. The design work was performed by CECO Associates Inc., Scranton, Pa.; and construction management was performed by Trumbull Corp., Pittsburgh. The total value of construction contracts awarded to build the interchange was $35 million. The overall project cost — including feasibility study, engineering design, property acquisition, utility relocation, toll technology and staged construction — was $40 million.
It is the PA Turnpike’s fourth E-ZPass Only Interchange system-wide but only its second “full” or “four-way” interchange: the Virginia Drive E-ZPass Only Interchange in Montgomery County (opened in 2000) is a half-interchange for westbound on/off traffic; the Street Road E-ZPass Only Interchange in Bucks County (opened in 2010) is also a half-interchange, providing eastbound on/off access; and the Route 29 E-ZPass Only Interchange in Chester County (opened in 2012) is a full interchange providing on/off movement both east and west.