States Raise Tolls in Response to Budget Issues

A truck travels on the express toll lanes on the New Jersey Turnpike. (New Jersey Turnpike Authority via Facebook)

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In an effort to avert financial shortfalls for highway programs due to the coronavirus pandemic, a number of states have raised their tolls for cars and trucks, effective Jan. 1.

Those tolling authorities announcing increases include states with heavy freight corridors such as New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York, as well as less commercially traveled states such as West Virginia.

The use of toll increases are widely thought in some states to be a good way to raise funding to support the critical improvements for long-term capital programs. Some of the state increases include:

  • Effective Jan. 1, officials in New Jersey added an annual overall increase of up to 3% on the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway. For the largest trucks, the cost to traverse the turnpike will go up more than $2 to $79.62. That price with an E-ZPass is $69.11.
  • In Pennsylvania, the most common toll for a 5-axle tractor-trailer to travel the entire length of the state turnpike will increase to $105.80 for E-ZPass customers and $212.40 for Toll By Plate customers. That’s a 3% increase, with heavy trucks being treated the same as passenger vehicles, according to a turnpike spokesman.
  • In New York, beginning Jan. 1, the N.Y. E-ZPass rates for commercial vehicles on the Gov. Mario M. Cuomo bridge will increase by 30%, and more closely align with other major crossings in the New York metropolitan area. For example, the toll for a tractor-trailer with 5 axles and a N.Y. E-ZPass account will increase to $55.77 during peak hours in 2022, compared with $90 at the George Washington Bridge.
  • In West Virginia, heavy truck tolls on West Virginia Parkways were increased by 5% on Jan. 1. The new rates require 6-axle trucks to pay $52.11 with E-ZPass and $60 in cash to travel the entire length of the parkways.
  • On Nov. 1, 2021, Maine increased toll rates. Heavy-duty truckers using cash traveling the Maine Turnpike are paying four times more than a car. For instance, the new cash rate for a 5-axle truck traveling from the York Toll Plaza all the way to Augusta — the entire length of the turnpike — has increased from $28 to $32, and from $32.05 to $36.05 for a 6-axle truck.

“Nobody likes a toll increase, especially those who make their living on the roads like our members do,” Brian Parke, president of the 1,600-member Maine Motor Transport Association, told Transport Topics. “But it’s hard to dispute the financial position that the pandemic left the turnpike authority in. And, really to their credit, they’ve done what they could do to minimize the overall increase.”


An exit toll booth on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. (Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission)

Toll rate increases have not been welcomed by American Trucking Associations, which told a U.S. House subcommittee that the use of tolls to finance infrastructure construction and maintenance was “inefficient, unsafe and damaging to the trucking industry.”

“While the trucking industry is willing to pay its fair share for infrastructure improvement, we believe that tolls are not the right solution, and in fact can be very harmful to our industry, our customers and ultimately, to consumers,” YRC Worldwide Inc. CEO Darren Hawkins on Sept. 11 told the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Subcommittee on Highways & Transit. In his testimony, Hawkins cited inefficiencies in toll collection, traffic diversion and misdirection of toll funds as significant problems with tolling when compared to other financing methods.

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