Editorial: More nickels, dimes for Pennsylvania Turnpike
Keep a couple extra coins in the cup holder of your car.
The Pennsylvania Turnpike is hungry.
On Sunday, the toll will go up again, meaning that ride to the office, or that trip in a truck for work, or just that weekend jaunt to Grandma’s house — all of them are going to get a little more expensive.
According to the Turnpike Commission, the most common tolls are going up eight cents for E-ZPass customers and 15 cents for those paying cash.
Eight cents? That’s not that bad. Even fifteen cents. Not crippling. But…
Now let’s do the math, and suddenly those pennies, added by trips to and from work and multiplied by a work week are 80 cents. Pay cash and it’s $1.50. Okay, still not breaking the bank, but run out the year and you’re at $41.60 with your pass or $78 if you’re forking over real bills.
Because these things add up. And that’s the point.
The small additions are supposed to be easily dismissed because who notices an increase that’s less than a dime, especially when it’s being automatically deducted off an electronic pass you might never think about?
But multiply those yearly fees not just by your own trip but by the thousands of other cars rushing to work and the thousands of trucks carting goods across a state that is, as the name says, a keystone between transportation up and down one side of the country and east to west across it, and those pennies have piled up into a lot of cash.
Gov. Tom Wolf has said the increase, the 11th in as many years, could hurt business. He could be right. It’s certainly not going to be popular with people who realize they don’t have any money and block traffic as they dig through their seat cushions looking for another nickel and dime.
But the purpose is to fund the turnpikes themselves as well as funnel money into PennDOT projects all over the state, to the tune of $450 million each year. That’s half of what the turnpike turned over in 2009.
Wolf thinks that system is a burden. It very well might be. That doesn’t change the fact that plans for yearly small increases are expected to keep rolling for the next 25 years.
That’s a good reason to pay attention to what your government is doing when they do it, rather than being surprised by it a few years down the road. At least if you know it’s coming, you can have those coins in the cup holder.