Turnpike considering all-electronic toll system

March 7, 2012 12:00 am

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The Pennsylvania Turnpike will take the next steps toward an all-electronic toll collection system that eliminates cash.

A yearlong study by consultants has determined that such a conversion is feasible, but would take at least five years and cost about $320 million.

"As the report makes clear, we have a lot of work to do before a final decision can be made, but this is an important step forward -- one we're excited to announce and share with our customers," said turnpike CEO Roger Nutt. "All-electronic tolling is a significant trend in our industry that a number of other agencies have implemented or are considering, and it is important that we thoroughly study such a possible conversion."

Toll road agencies in at least nine states have all-electronic tolling or are implementing it. In such a system, most drivers have transponders that send a signal to an overhead gantry when they pass, causing the toll to be automatically deducted from a prepaid account. For those without the transponders, the system photographs the license plate and generates a bill that is sent by mail.

All-electronic collections can be made at highway speeds, as is currently done in E-ZPass express lanes at several points on the turnpike system, including the Warrendale mainline toll plaza. An all-electronic system would improve safety and reduce travel times, pollution and the cost of collecting tolls, the consultants said.

"By eliminating toll plazas with the mix of cash and E-ZPass lanes, vehicles would maintain speed in their existing travel lane under a toll gantry as opposed to slowing down and jockeying for position in the correct designated lane, then [merging] again for the correct lane on the other side of the plaza," said the report by consultants McCormick Taylor and Wilbur Smith Associates.

First Published 2012-03-06 23:17:06

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