Pennsylvania Turnpike plans full ‘cashless’ transition by late 2021
By late 2021, the 552 miles of the Pennsylvania Turnpike will be fully converted to a “cashless” tolling system, turnpike commission officials said this week.
After a pair of pilot conversions — including on Turnpike 66 in Westmoreland County — the remaining sections of the east-west mainline, the Northeastern Extension (I-476) and the Mon/Fayette Expressway south of Pittsburgh are scheduled to be converted in the fall of 2021.
“This schedule is possible due to the success of our all-electronic tolling (AET) pilot locations, two in eastern PA and two on the western side of our system,” commission CEO Mark Compton said. “Data from these pilots is clear: Performance is on par with projections after 58 million AET transactions have been processed to date at four cashless-tolling locations. We expect the same of our newest AET conversions at the Gateway Toll Point near Ohio in Lawrence County and the Greensburg Bypass (PA Turnpike 66) in Westmoreland County.”
Since commission officials began studying, planning and implementing a cashless system, 30 agencies in 14 other states have established AET systems.
Compton said a big part of the change is drivers’ preference for the E-ZPass system, which bypasses most tolling booths.
“We recognize that customers pay a premium to travel the turnpike and, for that reason, we are continually reviewing the safety and efficiency of our system,” Compton explained. “Nine years ago, we undertook an AET feasibility study at a time when E-ZPass users were at around 60%. Today, our studies and pilot conversions have been completed, and now more than 80% of our travelers prefer E-ZPass.”
When the conversion is complete, drivers who had previously paid their tolls with cash or credit will instead receive a bill by mail. A photo of the license plate will be taken, and a bill be mailed to the vehicle’s owner.
Drivers with E-ZPass will pay as usual.
Compton said despite the 2021 conversion date, the commission is committed to no layoffs prior to Jan. 1, 2022. Collectors will staff toll plazas to offer guidance and aid to customers during this familiarization period.
“As we move towards AET, we will continue to do all we can to help transition impacted employees — whether that means moving to another position here at the PTC or one elsewhere,” Compton said. “Many have taken advantage of resources we’ve made available, including an employee transition guide to evaluate skills and consider internal and external jobs. Others have used our enhanced tuition reimbursement program to prepare for new opportunities here and elsewhere.”
Toll plazas and toll booths will eventually be decommissioned and demolished; overhead steel structures along the highway, called gantries, will be installed to house electronic-tolling apparatus, and these will become the new tolling points.
Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Patrick at 724-850-2862, [email protected] or via Twitter .