Imperfect progress: Cashless tolls carry an array of questions, concerns

The Editorial Board | Thursday, November 14, 2019, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The Pennsylvania Turnpike’s announcement that it will move to a completely cashless toll system by 2021 is being heralded as a mark of progress, an advance in technology that will reduce traffic and idling on the turnpike. But this progress comes at a cost that should not be overlooked — specifically, the loss of 600 jobs.

Automation has made the elimination of toll booth attendant positions something of an inevitability. In fact, Pennsylvania is late to the party. Dozens of toll agencies throughout the country already have gone cashless, and the resulting data indicates improved safety and mobility on toll roads.

Read More

Pennsylvania Turnpike using technology to clear accident scenes quicker

Ed Blazina | Monday, July 29, 2019, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

As a senior traffic operations manager for the Pennsylvania Turnpike, John Parker knew that tons of information is available about conditions on the toll road from a variety of sources: public safety reports, mobile apps such as Waze, even social media.

But at the turnpike’s control center in Harrisburg, it was a cumbersome process, at best, for the Traffic, Engineering and Operations personnel to monitor and use that information in the best ways possible.

Read More

Pennsylvania Turnpike to raise tolls 6 percent again in January

Ed Blazina | Tuesday, July 3, 2018, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

To Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, the state Turnpike Commission’s decision Tuesday to raise tolls for the 11th year in a row highlights a fundamental mistake the state made more than 10 years ago.

Beginning Jan. 6, the most common toll for a passenger vehicle will increase from $1.30 to $1.38 for E-ZPass customers; from $2.10 to $2.25 for cash customers; and from $6.75 to $7.20 for Toll By Plate. For Class-5 tractor-trailer trucks, the fee for the most common tolls will increase from $3.45 to $3.66 for E-ZPass and from $15.35 to $16.30 for cash.

Read More

Audit to examine impact of toll hikes on Pennsylvania Turnpike traffic, revenue

Theresa Clift | Wednesday, January 3, 2018, Pittsburgh Tribune Review

The state auditor general’s office will conduct a performance audit on the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission in light of concerns that annual toll hikes will cause traffic to decline and generate less money for important construction projects.

“What we want to analyze is their belief from their consultants that despite the increase in tolls, they’ll have increased traffic,” Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said during a conference call with reporters Wednesday. “I am not convinced this is going to happen.”

Read More

For Pennsylvania Turnpike’s emergency call boxes, it’s the end of the road

Ed Blazina | Monday, September 11, 2017, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Relics of a time before cell phones, about 1,000 emergency call boxes along the Pennsylvania Turnpike will be removed from the side of the toll road beginning this week.

The bright yellow boxes, located about a mile apart on the 550-mile turnpike, were installed in 1988 to give motorists a way to call for help if they had an emergency. They connect directly to the turnpike’s Traffic Operations Center in Highspire, where dispatchers can send help.

Read More

Pennsylvania Turnpike tolls to rise 6 percent again next year

Ed Blazini | Tuesday, July 18, 2017, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission will raise tolls for cash customers and E-ZPass users another 6 percent in January, the 10th year in a row fees have increased for the interstate.

The turnpike commission voted, 5-0, Tuesday to increase the tolls beginning Jan. 7. The most common toll for a passenger vehicle will increase next year from $1.23 to $1.30 for E-ZPass customers and from $1.95 to $2.10 for cash customers.

Read More