PENNSYLVANIA, USA — Tolls on the Pennsylvania Turnpike are going up once again, and they will continue to rise each year until at least 2050.
"I try to avoid tolls altogether but especially the PA Turnpike," said Tyra Cook of Hanover, York County. "My aunt used to live in Philadelphia, and she would avoid the Turnpike."
While Cook may want to avoid the tolls, the Steelers fan has to take the PA Turnpike to see her favorite football team.
"When you're on the turnpike, and you're given this large bill -- honestly, what other choice do you have? Or you're going an hour out of the way. Raising the prices... I can't even imagine," said Cook.
The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission says it has to raise the cost. It approved a 5% toll increase for 2022. The increase remains at 5% through 2025. Then, it goes down to 4% in 2026, 3.5% in 2027, 3% annually through 2050. The commission lost funding during the pandemic as Placey says less travelers took the road.
"This is the first year in probably six years that our toll increases is not at 6%," said Rosanne Placey, a spokesperson for the PA Turnpike Commission. "We recognize it's nothing to celebrate. We do recognize our customers pay a significant premium to drive on our roadways."
Placey describes the decrease from 6% to 5% as the light at the end of a very long tunnel. She says the smaller incremental increases provide relief from heftier toll increases and allows the turnpike to focus on roadway improvements.
It's also the last time the PA Turnpike Commission is required to pay $450 to PennDOT for transit services in the southeast and southwest parts of the state.
"It decreased to only $50 million per year," stated FOX43's Grace Griffaton. "It's a $400 million decrease. Where will that money go?"
"We will be able to expedite road projects that are needed in Pennsylvania for economic development purposes and that we're sticking to our capital plan and enhancing and increasing our capital plan," said Placey.
Beginning in July 2022, the $400 million in annual transit funding that had been provided by the PA Turnpike Commission will be funded by the Commonwealth’s Motor Vehicle Sales and Use Tax (MVSUT) as prescribed by Act 89 of 2013.
Act 89, however, does not eliminate the Commission’s debt, future debt service or funding obligation. Even with this much-needed relief, the PTC is still responsible for annual payments to PennDOT of $50 million until June 2057, and it must continue to pay down debt incurred from previous borrowing needed to fund Act 44 payments.
“The Act 44 sunsetting spelled out in Act 89 of 2013 is critical if the PTC is to remain fiscally sound as an organization and for the economic vitality of Turnpike-connected communities,” Mark Compton, CEO of the PA Turnpike Commission explained. “It’s important for customers understand that, even with the reduced obligation, we are still looking at annual toll increases of 5% from through 2025, 4% in 2026, 3.5% in 2027, then 3% annually from 2028 to 2050.”
According to a news release by the turnpike, the most common E-ZPass fare will be increased by a dime from $1.60 to $1.70. Those charged through a license plate scan will see the most common fair rise from $3.90 to $4.10.
Officials say the best way to save money is to buy an E-ZPass. People without one can now download the PA Toll Pay app to receive a 15% savings on toll by plate invoices.
The increase takes effect at 12:01 a.m. on January 2, 2022.
The PA Turnpike Commission will post a 2022 trip calculator and toll schedule online this fall.