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Tolling Points

Pennsylvania Turnpike to Go Cashless in 2021

By: 
Bill Cramer

The state tolling network that incorporates the nation’s oldest turnpike is getting an early start on celebrating its 80th anniversary next year, after unveiling a $129-million project to make its entire system cashless by autumn 2021.

“As I sit here today, the pilot phase is behind us,” Pennsylvania Turnpike CEO and IBTTA Second Vice President Mark Compton told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in late October. “The goal is to have the system completely cashless by the fall of 2021.” The decision adds a major state agency, and one of the industry’s most consistent innovators, to a national system that collects most of its tolls electronically. According to IBTTA’s TollMinerTM data visualization tool, there are more than 131 All-Electronic Tolling facilities in the U.S.

The Post-Gazette notes that pilot testing for the new system began in 2016, “first at the Delaware River Bridge, followed by the Beaver Valley Expressway, the Keyser Avenue and Clarks Summit interchanges on the Northeast Extension in Lackawanna County and the Findlay Connector near Pittsburgh International Airport. Last week, it began cashless tolls at the Gateway Plaza where traffic from Ohio enters the turnpike in Lawrence County, and the Turnpike Route 66 bypass in Westmoreland County.”

The Turnpike’s 13-mile Southern Beltway, now under construction near Pittsburgh International Airport, was designed to be cashless from the start.

Compton said the full project is going ahead after the pilots showed nearly identical toll collection rates between cash and cashless lanes. “I wanted to see the results on the pilots before we flipped the switch across the state,” he said. “We’ve been able to meet our marks at those locations, so there’s no reason not to move ahead.”

Helping Loyal Employees Make the Transition

While the news story focuses largely on the 600 toll collector and toll auditor jobs that will come to an end once the new system is in place, it makes clear the Turnpike has taken the transition process seriously. “We’re no longer able to guarantee jobs after January 2022,” Compton said. But “understanding these people have jobs and families, we’ve tried to do what we can to help them prepare for this.”

And with opportunities to retrain within the agency or receive up to $5,250 per year in tuition credits to learn a new career, one of the Turnpike’s major unions is acknowledging the effort. “We get it. It’s part of technology,” said Dan Kozel, business agent for Teamsters Local 250 on the South Side, who speaks for toll collectors in western Pennsylvania. “We’d rather have our people working. But they did look out for them by offering training.”

A Second Life for Toll Booths

While cash will disappear from the Pennsylvania system in just under two years, the Post-Gazette says some of the toll booths at exit ramps along the road will get a second life, at least for a little while. That’s because the system of 43 gantries on the Turnpike’s mainline and Northeast Extension won’t all be in place until 2026.

“Those booths will record E-ZPass transponder signals or take licence plate photographs so the agency can mail bills to drivers,” the paper reports.

What’s your latest innovation? Start planning now to apply for IBTTA’s 2020 Toll Excellence Awards.

Newsletter publish date: 
Tuesday, December 17, 2019 - 11:00

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