By Melissa Daniels
for The Pennsylvania Independent
HARRISBURG PA – Get ready, turnpike drivers, The Pennsylvania Independent online news service warned Thursday (Aug. 29, 2013). If you haven’t yet shelled out $38 for a Pennsylvania Turnpike E-Z Pass transponder, you may want to in the future.
An artist’s rendering of E-Z Pass gantries on the Pennsylvania Turnpike
The Turnpike Commission officially plans to do away with its 76 toll plazas and collectors along the 545-mile highway, and instead turn it into an all-electronic tolling system. “We fully expect we will be converted … by 2018,” spokesman Carl DeFabo told The Independent.
A similar system was recommended for a now-abandoned plan to impose tolls on U.S. Route 422 from King of Prussia west through Pottstown to Berks County. It’s also in use in other states.
Electronic systems generally work by replacing toll plazas with electronic readers. If a car with an E-Z Pass transponder goes through, the toll is deducted from the user’s pre-paid account. If the driver doesn’t have an E-Z Pass, their license plate information is captured by a camera and a bill is mailed to the vehicle’s registered owner.
- Watch a video (above) from the state of Washington that gives an overview of how electronic tolling systems work. The “Good To Go” pass referred to by Washington is similar to Pennsylvania’s E-Z Pass. Or, see the video at the YouTube channel of WSDOT.
Right now, about 70 percent of travelers use E-Z Pass, The Independent reported. The commission plans a marketing campaign before the new tolling system is launched to bump up E-Z Pass use to about 85 percent of all turnpike travelers.
Electronic tolling is far cheaper for the turnpike to operate. E-ZPass costs 20-cents per transaction, versus a dollar for a cash transaction. Since E-ZPass was implemented in 2000, the agency has 270 fewer toll workers.
The system also offers speed and safety, DeFabo said. Without toll booths, traffic keeps moving. An E-Z Pass lane processes between 1,000 and 1,200 vehicles, while a cash toll plaza can service about 200 to 250 vehicles an hour.