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Welcome to Pennsylvania…NOW PAY UP!

The Federal Highway Administration vetoed the Commonwealth’s plan to put tolls on Interstate 80 to help fill the potholes in PennDOT’s budget.  Since then, ideas on how to accomplish that feat in a different manner have been flying fast and furious.  Any plan will mean drivers will pay more.  The task of finding $472 million was taken up by three state representatives: Bill Kortz of Allegheny County, Michael O’Brien of Philadelphia, and Scott Conklin of Centre County.  Their idea?  Tolls!  What a welcome to Pennsylvania for drivers.

Their idea is officially called Special Session House Bill 2 or “Gateway Tolling for Transportation Independence Today.”  It would have toll plazas constructed at the state lines on Interstates 78, 79, 80, 81, 84, 90, and 95.  Traffic entering and exiting would be charged anywhere between $1 for passenger vehicles to $5 for trucks.  Residents near the borders could buy a book of tickets at a reduced price to give them a cheaper toll.  However, trucking companies based within Pennsylvania would be entirely exempt from paying.  The toll booths would be manned by PennDOT, not PTC, employees.  They would offer coin-drop baskets as well as E-ZPass gantries equipped with video cameras to capture violator’s license plates who would receive a bill in the mail.

These tolls would basically be a “user fee” paid by those who drive said Interstates, for maintenance of said Interstate.  Tolling currently free Interstates whose construction was funded 90% by the federal government is allowed to provide for maintenance, and only maintenance.  The plan to toll Interstate 80 would have siphoned money off for other transportation-related projects, which is not allowed.  Representative Coklin estimates that between $235 million and $300 million a year could be raised for the Department of Transportation.

The proposal faces two roadblocks:  passage by the special session of the Legislature and a stamp of approval from the Federal Highway Administration.  Since the proposal would need their approval, the process for implementation could take several years.  Therefore, the idea might not provide immediate results.

So “Welcome to Pennsylvania”…for free…for now.

Welcome to Pennsylvania Sign/Fare Schedule

New Plan to Toll Roads Proposed – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

 
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E-ZPass Finally Coming to Extensions

E-ZPass appeared on the Pennsylvania Turnpike System six years ago, and it’s finally coming to the extensions in the Pittsburgh area.  In addition, the current coin-drop machines will be upgraded to ones similar to those at the Jefferson Hills Toll Plaza on PA Turnpike 43 (Mon-Fayette Expressway).

PA Turnpike 66 toll plaza in Westmoreland County currently without E-ZPass capabilities.
PA Turnpike 66 toll plaza in Westmoreland County between Exit 4 and Exit 6

About time, as the addition of E-ZPass is long over due! A timetable with implementation dates had been placed on the Toll Highways page, but it was removed because I grew tired of changing it with a new updated schedule that never seemed to pan out.  If only it was active on PA Turnpike 43 when I drove that expressway almost on a daily basis.  I can’t tell you how many times I ended up behind someone in the exact change lane paying their toll in pennies!  Not to mention the one night I found a toll collector asleep, leaning out of the booth.

As for the coin-drop machines, I also say about time!  The early models are very temperamental and will sometimes not register your payment.  Even when 66 opened in 1993, that summer I had a problem with one at its mainline toll plaza.  The worst was once at the California Toll Plaza on Turnpike 43.  I pulled into a lane and saw a worker standing at the machine.  I threw my two quarters into the basket, the traffic signal turned green, and everything seemed fine. Then, WHAM, the gate came crashing down.  Luckily, I hadn’t started yet or I would have had a horizontal crease across my hood.  All the worker said was “whoops!”  Yeah, that’d have been a big whoops the Turnpike Commission would have been paying to fix.

The only expressway not included in the expansion of E-ZPass is the aforementioned PA Turnpike 43 (Mon-Fayette Expressway).  It is easy to see why, since right now it is a disjointed expressway with less traffic than the others.

E-ZPass, Other Enhancements Coming This Year to Greensburg and Beaver Valley Expressways – Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission

 

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