The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission
is considering converting to a cashless, all-electronic toll collection system due to advantages such as enhanced safety, a cleaner environment, reduced travel time and reduced operating costs.
The commission completed an AET Feasibility Report
that includes the results of a year-long effort to outline the potential effects conversion to all-electric tolls would have on Pennsylvania Turnpike motorists, operations and stakeholders.
PTC determined that an AET is feasible from both a financial and physical perspective under certain conditions. The report also outlines a series of benchmarks that must be met before the PTC can make a final decision on the switch to the cashless system. A conversion would take at least five years, the commission says.
The commission will soon hire a program-management firm to oversee the next phase of the study and potentially assist the commission in implementing the new system.
Motorists would still be able to use the system without registering for E-ZPass (nearly two-thirds of Pennsylvania Turnpike travelers presently pay with E-ZPass). The ongoing study will identify other payment methods for customers, but E-ZPass would continue to be the least expensive option. Currently, E-ZPass customers pay about 17% less, on average, than those who pay with cash.
Some in the state's trucking industry have endorsed the idea of a cashless toll system because of the benefits for commercial operators.
"Keeping traffic moving at interchanges is important to us in the time-sensitive trucking business because it helps get that cargo delivered on time," says Jim Germak, owner of Jagtrux Inc., Marietta, Pa., and new chairman of the Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association. "Beyond the time savings, shippers could also save on fuel costs with electronic tolling because of reduced idling at the toll plaza, and trucks with E-ZPass would still pay lower rates under any such system, so company owners and accountants should appreciate that."
States including Texas, Florida, California, Colorado, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New York and North Carolina are all at different stages of electronic-toll implementation.
To view the AET Feasibility Report, go to www.paturnpike.com/aet.