Pennsylvania Turnpike tolls reach highest point on west Interstate 376
By Tom Fontaine
Published: Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013, 8:18 p.m.
Kevin Burns drives the Pennsylvania Turnpike's most expensive toll highway almost every day, using the westernmost portion of Interstate 376 to go from his Beaver home to teach computer classes and visit his mother in Sharon.
When turnpike tolls go up for the sixth year on Jan. 5, cash-paying motorists on the tolled part of I-376 stretching 16 miles from Chippewa to New Castle will pay 20 cents a mile. E-ZPass users such as Burns will pay 13 cents a mile.
“It's an expensive proposition to use it every day, but I look at the convenience of it,” said Burns, 53, a technology education and computer science teacher at Sharon Middle/High School.
The Turnpike Commission does not charge a standard rate along its 556-mile system. In some sections, the per-mile cost is as low as 11.3 cents for cash-paying motorists and 7.8 cents for E-ZPass users, data show.
Turnpike spokesman Bill Capone said the agency's costliest toll highways are its newest ones, including the toll portion of I-376, Turnpike 66 in the Greensburg area, Turnpike 43 (a toll portion of the Mon-Fayette Expressway), and the Findlay Connector near Pittsburgh International Airport that was designed to be the first leg of a future Southern Beltway.
“They were built much later than the mainline and Northeast Extension, so their original tolls were based on a cost of construction that was much more expensive per mile,” Capone said.
The east-west turnpike runs 360 miles through the state, from the Ohio line to New Jersey. The mainline opened in 1940, and the first section of the Northeast Extension in the mid-1950s.
The toll portion of I-376, at least a nickel per mile more expensive than Pennsylvania's other new toll highways, opened in the early 1990s. Officials said at the time that the $243 million project came in on time and under budget.
The toll increases taking effect in January will raise rates about 2 percent forE-ZPass users and 12 percent for cash-paying motorists.
The increases are due in large part to a state law, Act 44 of 2007, which requires the turnpike to annually contribute at least $450 million to PennDOT for road, bridge and transit projects. The increases also will help pay for an ongoing project to widen the mainline turnpike to three lanes in each direction, said Capone.
A $2.3 billion transportation funding package that lawmakers passed in November requires the Turnpike Commission to continue making the payment for eight years, and then the obligation will fall to $50 million annually.
The agency is working to convert to an all-electronic tolling system, possibly by 2018, which would be cheaper to operate, Capone said. Officials have said the move could slash turnpike costs, including wages and benefits for toll collectors, by at least $67 million a year.
The alternative to Burns' costly, 45-minute commute on I-376 would be driving more than an hour on Route 18, a largely two-lane road that winds through rural areas and includes numerous traffic lights in New Castle. Traffic often backs up behind Amish buggies near New Wilmington.
“I don't mind paying my fair share, but I do get upset when scandals arise,” Burns said, referring to the March indictments of eight current and former Turnpike officials for what prosecutors say was a pay-to-play scheme in which contractors' campaign contributions and gifts allegedly helped secure lucrative contracts.
Trials are scheduled in 2014. Turnpike officials say they have made sweeping changes to fight mismanagement and corruption.
Tom Fontaine is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7847 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pennsylvania sting scouted private liquor store sites
- Philadelphia robbers steal $105K from armored truck
- Young Pakistani immigrant linked to Pennsylvania woman known as ‘Jihad Jane’ sentenced to prison
- Dog wardens will canvass state for license compliance
- Homicide investigators gather in State College to share ideas
- Louis Freeh gets expedited appeal to Graham Spanier suit
- Philadelphia museum truck drives home local history
- Many emergency room patients have dental problems
- Good Samaritan in Millcreek turns over bag of found money to authorities
- Eastern Pa. Girl Scout organizes drive to send treats to Jewish troops overseas
- Stepbrother slams McCord over ‘single mom’ ads