E-ZPass-only turnpike could cost cash customers plenty

E-ZPass-only turnpike could cost cash customers plenty

If you drive the Pennsylvania Turnpike every day, you've probably heard the cash lanes may be going away. 

The turnpike is considering going E-ZPass-only, but you might be surprised how much it could cost you if you don't buy one.

Toll plazas would be replaced with express lanes like the one on Interstate 78 at the Delaware River bridge. 

"I think in the long run it's probably the way to go," said driver Steve Shairpo of Scranton.

Not all drivers are on board, though.

"I just think pushing people to get it is not the way to do things," said Ray Middleton from Wilkes-Barre.

The commission said the long-term savings are hard to ignore.  A consultant's report estimates keeping toll collectors would cost $123 million for the 2014-2015 fiscal year.  

Going cashless drops it to $83 million, according to the report.  That's a potential $40 million savings. It would, however, also cost an initial $320 million to make the conversion.

Those figures make a big assumption: that most drivers who get a violation notice in the mail actually pay it.  To offset those losses, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported drivers who don't use E-ZPass and simply drive through the E-ZPass lanes could get hit with a 76 percent surcharge. 

"That seems like a lot," said Middleton. "It's too much."

A turnpike commission spokesman told 69 News it's likely to be closer to 50 percent but even that would tack on a extra $1.50 each way for commuters from the Lehigh Valley to Philadelphia.

"That is ridiculous," said Wilkes-Barre driver Katherine Lietz.  "That's literally 'highway robbery.'"

Shapiro thinks drivers need to embrace the change and the savings that could come with it.

"It's high, but I think it's going to push people into doing what they need to do and get the E-ZPass," he said.

If the Pennsylvania Turnpike goes cashless, it would be the first statewide road network in the U.S. to do so. 

Right now, the idea is just a proposal.  The commission will soon hire a program-management firm to oversee the next phase of the study.

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Allentown, PA 18102




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