Changes to Expect on the Pennsylvania Turnpike in 2017

As residents of PA, we all depend on the PA Turnpike. Running 360 miles (580 km) across the state, the PA Turnpike is a toll road with 37 exchanges on I-76/I-276 alone and 17 service plazas that we depend upon for road trips and our daily work commutes. 

The PA turnpike is a very historical road, officially in service on October 1, 1940. When it was built, planners predicted that 1.3 million vehicles would use the turnpike each year.  In 2015, 198,536,011 vehicles used the PA Turnpike! For an incredibly comprehensive list of interesting Turnpike facts, you can check out PennDOT's infographic.

Rate Hikes in 2017 

The Turnpike is almost 76 years old and it is in constant repair, with a few major improvement projects in the works including an I-95 interchange revamp for 2017.  In fact, on January 8, 2017, our tolls are going up 6% (E-ZPass and cash customers alike) in order to pay back the PA Turnpike Commission’s loans taken to fund PennDOT. The increase will fund a 10-year spending plan of more than $5.77 billion for reconstruction and widening projects, and allow the Commission to continue paying down debt obligations.

The Turnpike is required to help fund PennDOT, and is obligated (per the PA General Assembly) to make payments through 2057 totaling approximately $5 billion. That’s the main reason the Turnpike Commission will increase tolls each year by around 6%. 

You Can Still Save with E-ZPass!

Even though the rate increase affects E-ZPass and cash customers equally, E-ZPass is a great value because it saves both money and time. The more people in the E-ZPass lanes, the fewer employees at the toll booths, saving the department money. Right now there are 1.7 million E-ZPass accounts and 2.7 million transponders associated with them.  

What Does E-ZPass Cost?

You can buy E-ZPass at www.paturnpike.com or by calling 1-877-PENN-PASS. It costs $38 to open an account.  The account works by auto-replenishment using your credit/debit card.  When you open the account the cost includes a $35 toll balance plus a $3 annual service fee. 

More Tips for Saving Money on the Turnpike

Now that you know traveling PA roads is going to get more expensive this year, here are a few apps we think are worthwhile to share to help keep road trip and commuting costs down. 

RepairPal – Available for iOS and Android, RepairPal will show you accurate repair and service estimates no matter where you break down. (PS: if you do break down on the Turnpike, tie a piece of cloth to the car door facing traffic and call *11 to request assistance from the TurnPike Operations Center.) 

Waze – Available for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone, Waze is a community-based app where drivers share real-time traffic information like police traps and accidents and find the cheapest gas. 

A Few Final Reminders to Save You Money

Try not to get a ticket on the Turnpike, which is actively patrolled by police. The maximum speed limit is 70 MPH and the minimum speed is 15 miles per hour below the posted speed limit, except as noted otherwise. Work zones are different though. We want to keep our PennDOT workers safe, so the ticket fines dramatically increase in work zones.  If you get caught going 11 mph or more over the speed limit in a work zone you could get a $200 fine plus a 15-day suspension of your license. So be sure to slow down in work zones!

If you don't have E-ZPass and you lose your toll ticket, you’ll have to pay the fare from the farthest point of entry on the Turnpike to the point you exit. So hold on to those golden tickets!

Of Course, There is an Exception 

In January 2016, the Delaware River Bridge became a cashless tolling system with a separate charge from the main Pennsylvania Turnpike, but you only pay when you are coming into PA from New Jersey.  If you don’t have E-ZPass the toll fee will be sent as a to the registered owner of the vehicle.

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