No one traveling on the Pennsylvania Turnpike will need to stop to pay a toll by late 2021.
With an eye toward safety and convenience, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission recently announced its plans for a completely cashless toll system by fall 2021.
“Not stopping makes a big difference to people, it keeps traffic flowing. ... It definitely simplifies your travel,” spokesman Carl DeFebo said. “In our larger metropolitan areas, backups at the toll booths are a daily fact of life.”
In addition, the new system will reduce fender-benders caused by cars weaving among lanes to exit through toll booths, DeFebo said.
Here are some things you need to know about the upcoming changes:
What does “cashless” mean?
Cashless doesn’t mean you don’t have to pay. You just won’t have to stop at each toll to pay.
Instead, you will slow down to the posted speed limit and pass through an open lane at the toll location.
As you drive through, a high-speed camera will photograph your license plate and an invoice will be mailed to the registered owner of the vehicle.
Should the Turnpike go cashless?
How will an invoice work?
According to DeFebo, invoices will be sent to a vehicle’s registered owner within 30 days and will need to be paid within 20 days.
The invoice can be paid online, by phone or through a mailed-in money order or check.
Travelers can create an account under the “Toll by Plate” program where charges can be viewed online and paid. Accounts can be opened before traveling on the turnpikes or up to 24 hours after travel, according to the turnpike commission’s website.
What if you have E-ZPass?
E-ZPass will not change, and it will be accepted at all toll locations statewide.
The difference is drivers with an E-ZPass will no longer have to maneuver through a separate toll lane; all commuters can travel through any of the lanes.
According to the commission, approximately 82% of the 210 million commuters who travel on the turnpikes every year use an E-ZPass.
Can an E-ZPass save you money?
On average, an E-ZPass can save a commuter 35% on the toll cost, according to Rosanne Placey, turnpike commission manager of media and public relations.
The percentage you save depends on where a vehicle entered the turnpike and where it exits.
For example, a passenger vehicle (two axles) entering the turnpike at the Lancaster-Lebanon toll location and exiting at Harrisburg East would pay $3.60 in cash and $2.30 with an E-ZPass, a total savings of $1.30, or about 36%.
A similar vehicle traveling from Morgantown to Reading would pay $2.30 in cash and $1.40 with an E-ZPass, a total savings of 90 cents, or about a 40%.
Toll by Plate users will pay the cash rate.
The turnpike commission approved a 6% toll increase for E-ZPass and cash customers in July effective at 12:01 a.m. Jan. 5, 2020.
What will happen to the toll booths?
Existing booth structures and physical toll locations will be removed moving east to west over a four- to five-year span after 2021, DeFebo said.
The new “open road tolling” system will allow drivers to travel at normal highway speeds. A network of overhead steel frames called gantries will be equipped to scan E-ZPass transponders or take pictures of license plates and generate invoices.
That change is not expected to reach central Pennsylvania until around 2024-2025, DeFebo said.