City

Say Goodbye to Cash Tolls on the Pennsylvania Turnpike

And hello to E-ZPass, if you don’t already have it — or you can just wait for a bill to show up in the mail.


pennsylvania turnpike tolls

Photo by Doug Kerr via Creative Commons

Long, idling car lines at Pennsylvania Turnpike tollbooths (and tollbooth attendants) could soon be a thing of the past.

By late 2021, tollbooths on the Pennsylvania Turnpike will no longer accept cash. Those who have yet to purchase an E-ZPass (likely out of laziness … as is my case, at least) should probably get around to doing so.

What to expect of the switch? The costs of turnpike trips won’t change because of the adjustment — the amount you need to pay will still be determined by your entry and exit points. (Through tolls across the board are expected to triple in 30 years because of turnpike debt.)

But instead of stopping at toll booths to grab a turnpike ticket or to hand over money, all drivers will proceed through toll collection lanes. There will be no need to stop for tickets or to pay cash. (Maybe you’ve already used a cashless tolling point, in fact: one opened near the Delaware River-Turnpike Toll Bridge at the New Jersey border in Bucks County in January 2016.)

Over time, toll plazas and tollbooths will be decommissioned and demolished, and in their place, the electronic-tolling overhead steel structures that already exist at some points along the highway will continue to be installed throughout the turnpike’s 552 miles.

“Cashless tolling has been adopted by dozens of agencies across the United States because of the improved safety and mobility it provides,” Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission CEO Mark Compton said in a statement. “Everybody pays electronically, so there’s no need to stop; everyone benefits from the convenience of uninterrupted travel. Plus, cash and E-ZPass customers no longer need to dart across tollbooth traffic to reach their lanes.”

The new turnpike tolling system won’t use E-ZPass exclusively. But signing up for E-ZPass (which you can do here, by the way), makes paying tolls a lot easier. If you don’t use E-ZPass, the turnpike’s electronic-tolling system will take a photo of your license plate as your vehicle passes, and a Toll by Plate bill will be mailed to the vehicle owner.

According to the PTC, E-ZPass toll transactions account for more than 75 percent of all transactions systemwide (and are higher than 80 percent at some interchanges).

The PTC estimates that about 600 toll collectors and toll auditors will lose their jobs as a result of the switch, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Compton said the organization will “continue to do all we can to help transition impacted employees — whether that means moving to another position here at the PTC or one elsewhere.”