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The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission has approved a 6% toll rate increase to keep pace with rising debt-service costs.
The increase, which will apply to E-ZPass and cash customers, will go into effect Jan. 5, 2020.
The commission announced its decision July 16.
The bulk of the 360-mile turnpike runs east-west along Interstate 76, spanning from Philadelphia to the Ohio state line. The toll road also has two large offshoots, one north of Philadelphia along I-476 and the other south of Pittsburgh along State Route 43.
Under current rates, a Class 8 truck traveling the entire east-west length of the turnpike would be tolled $384 using cash and $276 using E-ZPass.
The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission has hiked the toll rate each year for the past 10 years.
According to a press release, the toll increase provides the revenue needed to keep up with annual contributions outlined in state funding laws: Act 44 of 2007 and Act 89 of 2013.
Act 44 required the commission to provide the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation with $450 million a year for highways, bridges and public transit.
Act 89 modified the payments, calling for them to be dedicated solely to public transit.
“Since 2009, the commission has increased tolls annually to maintain its aging roads and make good on a funding obligation required by two state laws,” said Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission CEO Mark Compton. “As a result, the commission has delivered $6.6 billion in toll-backed funding to PennDOT.”
The January toll increase will not apply to three locations in western Pennsylvania that will experience toll increases Oct. 27. They are: Beaver Valley Expressway (a portion of I-376 northwest of Pittsburgh), Greensburg Bypass (a stretch of SR 66 southeast of Pittsburgh) and Gateway tolling point (the first toll entering the state from Ohio on I-76).
The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission issued $800 million in municipal bonds to help fund payments to the state for fiscal 2019 and fiscal 2020. According to Compton, anticipated toll revenue for the fiscal year is estimated at $1.4 billion and the debt service payments are roughly $700 million.
“Due to this onerous funding requirement, nearly half of the Pennsylvania Turnpike’s fiscal year 2020 toll revenue will go to pay debt service alone,” Compton said.
The toll increases also will support the commission’s 10-year plan to maintain the turnpike. Portions of the toll road are nearly 80 years old and require widening and smoothing.
The commission has reconstructed more than 140 miles of the turnpike, and still has plans and designs to rebuild another 82 miles. It runs for 360 miles across the state.
In order to control costs, the commission has limited growth in the operating budget and reduced spending in the 10-year plan. “We are doing what we can to mind our shop and manage costs as we deal with our economic realities,” Compton said.
“For the 2019 fiscal year ending May 31, we’re projecting operating expenses to come in almost $40 million under budget while actual expense growth over the 2018 fiscal year is projected to be less than 1%.”