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July 20, 2012 | By | Posted in General News

Turnpike tolls increase for fifth year in a row

By Eric Boehm | Pa Independent

HARRISBURG — The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission announced that tolls will be increasing again in 2013 for the fifth consecutive year.

Drivers who pay with cash will pay 10 percent more, but EZ-Pass users will see a 2 percent increase, as part of the commission’s effort to get more drivers to switch to the electronic system.

The new tolls will take effect Jan. 6, 2013.

Roger Nutt, CEO of the Turnpike Commission, said the increase was necessary to satisfy an annual $450 million payment to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, which is required under Act 44 of 2007.  This means toll-payers on the turnpike are financing debt service for various state projects.

“Act 44 expanded the commission’s role by mandating annual contributions to PennDOT for broader, statewide transportation needs, including funding for highways, bridges and public-transit operations,” Nutt said. “To date, the commission has provided $3.4 billion in financial support under that act.”

Auditor General Jack Wagner has warned that Act 44 established an unsustainable spiral of higher debt for the Turnpike Commission that will require toll increases every year.

The total debt held by the commission has increased from $2.6 billion to $7.3 billion since Act 44 was passed, said Wagner.

“It does not end well for the toll payers and ultimately for the taxpayers of our commonwealth,” Wagner warned in February. “The mandates of Act 44 require toll increases for the next 46 years creating a debt time bomb for the taxpayers of Pennsylvania.”

Tolls on the Pennsylvania Turnpike increased four times between 1938 and 2007.

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Eric Boehm is a reporter for PA Independent. He can be reached at Eric@PAIndependent.com or at (717) 350-0963.

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