HARRISBURG PA – Think back to mid-2011, when a great debate raged locally over proposals to institute tolling on U.S. Route 422. That plan, never enacted, was meant to raise revenue for highway expansion and repair, and to improve mass transit. Proponents at the time said slow-you-down toll booths would be unnecessary; overhead electronic gantries, they claimed, would track each vehicle and bill owners monthly for toll miles traveled.
Fast-forward to last Tuesday (Nov. 13, 2012) for a feeling of deja vu, only this time it’s not a gantry-equipped 422 that’s under discussion. Instead, electronic toll billing is being planned for the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
Turnpike Commission officials, in a hearing before a joint House and Senate Transportation Committee, told legislators they plan to convert the highway to all-electronic tolling within five years, The (Harrisburg) Patriot-News reported. Craig Shuey, the turnpike’s acting chief executive officer, described the project as the most ambitious of its kind in the nation.
The commission intends to replace its existing network of toll plazas with the gantries, which would straddle travel lanes. “Tolls would automatically be deducted from E-Z Pass accounts, and the license plates of other vehicles would be photographed so bills could be sent to their owners,” The Patriot-News said.
Shuey told politicians that electronic tolling represented the most significant change in turnpike operations since it opened in 1940. A big reason: the commission could rid itself of up to $77 million in annual expenses paid primarily to 755 unionized toll collectors and 100 other non-union employees. They would all be out of jobs. The commission thinks it can save millions more in energy and maintenance costs, according to the newspaper.
The commission has already hired a contractor, HNTB Corp. of Missouri, to proceed with the plan that would eliminate cash collection along all 545 turnpike miles. The Patriot-News said HNTB has five offices, including one in Harrisburg.
Plans for tolling 422, and its accompanying electronic collection, died Oct. 4, 2011, when the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission shelved them to due negative “public and political sentiment,” as commission Executive Director Barry Seymour put it.
Interestingly, 422 tolling persisted as a minor campaign issue during the just-ended November (2012) general election. In the contest for the state’s 157th House District, between Republican incumbent winner Rep. Warren Kampf and former representative Democrat Paul Drucker, Kampf bought signage on 422 that positioned Drucker as pro-toll.
Related (to U.S. Route 422 Corridor planning):
- Electronic Toll Billing, And A Busy Road. Nope, It’s Not 422
- Route 422 Toll Plan Officially Dead, At Least For Now
- Lawmakers, Editorials Press On Transportation Funding
- Chamber Presents Members’ Forum On 422 Proposals
- Toll Road, Rail Line Deal Announced … NOT For 422
- Candidates Criticize DVRPC Toll Info Position
- On 422 Toll Plan, DVRPC Fights Information Requests
- Notebook Worthy (U.S. Route 422 Forum Edition)
- Drivers will subsidize new rail line in 422 tolling plan
- Agendas Abound Tonight At 422 Forum In Royersford
- Quigley Seeks Crowd As Source Of Comments On 422
- State Road Tolls A Future Funding Solution, Official Agrees
- Report Expected To Suggest Law For Road Toll Authority
- I-95 A Big Problem; 422 A Solvable Problem (With Tolls)
- Even With Tolling, 422 Might Be Free (For A Few Miles)
- County Candidates Brown, Castor Oppose 422 Tolling
- Quigley, Other Reps Questioning 422 Tolls Proposal
- 422 Toll Proposal Wins Some PA Commission Backers
- Exec Highway Group To Hear Rt. 422 Tolling As ‘Model’
- 422 Questions Answered, For Your Viewing Pleasure
- In 422 Tolling, Planners Say, Studying Doesn’t Make It So
- Former Reporter Asks Commissioners To Support 422 Tolls
- Online Survey Seeks Opinions On Local Road Congestion
- 422 Plus Project Plays Offense With FAQs Debut
- Peering Into The Future? Gov’s Bridge Proposal And 422
- Another Township Endorses 422 Master Plan
- Neighboring Limerick Supervisors Endorse 422 Master Plan
- Understand 422 Plan Endorsement, Lower Pottsgrove Advised
- Lower Pottsgrove Holds On 422 Plan Endorsement
- Engineers Claim PA Roads Worse Now Than In 2006
- Tuesday Session Tackles Funding For 422 And Elsewhere
- Tolls, Lower Pottsgrove Station Part Of 422 Plan
- Pending Decision May Affect Route 422 Projects
- Last Day For Your Say On Route 422 Plan
- Notebook Worthy (Aug. 24, 2009)
- Consultants Express Interest In Studying 422
- Don’t Like 422 Tolling? Website Wants Your Alternative
- Truckers Alerted On Highway Partnerships Bill
- In 422 Debate, Time A Hindrance And Help
- Notebook Worthy (June 29, 2009)
- Growth, Planners Say, Is 422’s Growing Problem
- Tech Used To Draw For 422 Meetings
- Route 422 Toll Meetings Next Week
- 422 Repairs, Delays Start Tuesday
- 422 Proposal, Like Traffic, Creeps Ahead
- Got A Route 422 Idea? Time To Air It
- Train Service On The Front Burner Once More
Photo from HNTB Corp.