All-electronic tolls planned for Pa. Turnpike

Acting CEO: 5-year project most ambitious of its kind in US

All-electronic tolls planned for Pa. Turnpike

Paying cash at tolls on the Pennsylvania Turnpike could soon be a thing of the past. The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission is eyeing all-electronic tolls.

For years, turnpike drivers have had two options for paying tolls -- cash or E-ZPass. About 68 percent of state drivers prefer E-ZPass, turnpike officials said, but some drivers, like Patricia Peck, prefer the old-fashioned option.

"We pay cash," said Peck.

Cash-payers may soon have no choice. Since 2011, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission has been developing a plan to convert the turnpike into all-electronic tolls.

"It was determined that this is something that is feasible," said Carl DeFebo, Pennsylvania Turnpike spokesman.

At a joint House and Senate Transportation Committee hearing in Harrisburg on Tuesday, officials said their goal is to make this switch over the next five years.

In going electronic, overhead "gantries" would straddle all travel lanes. DeFebo said that would be the biggest change in the turnpike operations since it opened in 1940.

If you do not have E-ZPass when you go through the tolls, DeFebo said drivers' license plates would be photographed. The state would then mail a bill to their home.

"It would save time. It really would because you have to stop, get change back that you need, and it would be quicker. I'm sure it would," said Peck.

The price of speeding up the toll lines, however, comes at a cost to employees who work in toll plazas. Hundreds of jobs would be in jeopardy.

Local 77 Teamsters, one of the unions representing state turnpike employees, declined to comment on the plans.

Turnpike travelers had no problem voicing their opinions.

"I don't think the government should do anything like that. I think it should be left up to the individual. Let them decide what they want to do," said Bill GunDrum.

"It wouldn't be a big deal for us," said Susan Tetzlaff.

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