PA Turnpike Preparing for Open Road Tolling Launch in January
In less than a year, the Pennsylvania Turnpike will flip the switch, transitioning half of the system to Open Road Tolling.
But before this major change in how the Turnpike collects tolls and makes travel easier can happen, there’s still some work to be done, starting with connecting the new system to the new fiberoptic network.
“We’re making progress,” Manager of Transportation Technology and Communications Jesse Ream said. “It’s really satisfying seeing it all coming together.”
Rather than having traffic funnel through toll plazas as it does now, Open Road Tolling will read E-ZPasses and license plates at points along the roadway as cars and trucks travel at highway speed. In order to do this, overhead gantries – metal frames spanning the highway and holding the equipment – are being installed along the Turnpike between interchanges.
- You can read all about Open Road Tolling, or ORT, in this recent article by Turnpike Chief Engineer Brad Heigel in the latest issue of Borough News.
Next to each new gantry is a small building with a stone façade. It not only matches the motif of the Turnpike’s soundwalls and bridge abutments, but these small buildings also house the computer equipment and generators necessary to run the new system. This video explains how it all works:
Most of the gantries and toll-equipment buildings have been constructed in the eastern half of the Turnpike, and the next step is to connect them to the fiberoptic lines, which are already running beneath the surface along the shoulder in the same section of the highway.
So far, four have been connected with more and more coming online.
“Our contractor, Tilson, will cut into that existing fiber cable and run a lateral fiber into the building,” Senior Engineer Matt Dasher, who is overseeing the fiber connections, explained the process. "After the fiber splicing and fiber termination process has been completed, we (IT) can then connect the network communication equipment and send data across the fiber."
It’s about a day or so’s work to bring each gantry online.
“It’s very satisfying to see project like this come to fruition,” Dasher said. “We’ve spent so much time to preparing and planning for this.”
Ream said once the fiber is all connected, there will be several months of testing the network before Open Road Tolling can go live.
The fiber will do much more than serve as the electronic backbone of Open Road Tolling. It will also allow for more cameras to be placed along the roadway, will connect to digital message signs, and can exponentially increase the bandwidth at facilities across the Turnpike.
ORT is expected to go live in January from the Reading Interchange eastward, as well as on the entire Northeastern Extension. The western half will be next and is expected to be converted to Open Road Tolling in January 2027.
Since the old toll booths will no longer be needed, crews can begin demolishing them after the conversion. Demolition is expected to begin in the east while gantry construction is underway in the west.
By Steve Marroni, Communications Specialist, Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission