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Turnpike ride to take larger toll

| Saturday, July 31, 2004

Slip a few extra bucks into your wallet if you're traveling the Pennsylvania Turnpike this weekend.

An average 42 percent toll hike takes effect at 12:01 a.m. Sunday.

Truckers face an average jump of 5.3 cents a mile, from 12.4 to 17.7 cents. Passenger vehicle tolls will increase 1.8 cents a mile, from 4.1 to 5.9 cents.

That means the driver of a car traveling from Monroeville to Breezewood will pay $6.50, up $2.10.

The state Turnpike Commission voted in January to raise tolls, citing the need for money to rebuild the 359-mile-long stretch of the main highway, much of which is at least 50 years old. Money will be used for such massive projects as replacing the Allegheny River bridge near the Allegheny Valley exit in Harmar.

"This is about the viability and safety of the turnpike," commission spokesman Joe Agnello said. "We need to enhance the durability of the road for the pounding it takes. That's where this money is going to go."

Tolls will increase despite an initial uproar by some politicians and trucking groups, including the Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association. More than 183 million vehicles are projected to use the turnpike this year.

The political opposition has faded. But the trucking industry is negotiating with the commission for possible discounts. No decision has been made, said Bill Capone, another commission spokesman.

The commission will erect signs at turnpike exit lanes to remind drivers of the toll increase. It has posted a new fare schedule on its Web site, http://www.paturnpike.com .

Toll collectors will hand out sheets showing the new tolls. The last toll hike was in 1991.

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