The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC) has announced that it plans a full transition to ‘cashless’ All-Electronic Tolling (AET) in late 2021, with in-lane or onsite payments no longer accepted anywhere along the 552 miles (888km) long tollway.
After a pair of western Pennsylvania cashless conversions last month, the remaining sections of the east-west mainline, the Northeastern Extension (Interstate 476), and the Mon/Fayette Expressway south of Pittsburgh, are scheduled to be converted to fully cashless operation by autumn 2021. Last year, the PTC converted the Findlay Connector in Washington and Allegheny counties and the Keyser Avenue and Clarks Summit tolling points on the Northeastern Extension in Lackawanna County. In 2017, it converted the Beaver Valley Expressway (PA Turnpike 376) in Beaver and Lawrence counties. In January 2016, it opened a cashless tolling point near the Turnpike Bridge over the Delaware River at the New Jersey border in Bucks County.
When the Turnpike’s cashless conversion is complete, drivers who have been accustomed to paying their tolls with cash or credit cards will instead receive a PA Turnpike ‘TOLL BY PLATE’ bill by mail, including a photo of their license plate. Drivers with an E-ZPass account and transponder will pay electronically as usual. Ultimately, the PTC’s system will be converted to one where all tolls are collected at highway speeds between entry and exit points, using the Open Road Tolling (ORT) method of all-electronic revenue collection. Toll plazas and tollbooths will be decommissioned and demolished; overhead steel structures along the highway (gantries) will be installed to house electronic-tolling apparatus, and these will become the new tolling points.
“This schedule is possible due to the success of our AET pilot locations, two in eastern PA and two on the western side of our system,” said PTC’s CEO, Mark Compton. “Data from these pilots is clear: performance is on par with projections, after 58 million AET transactions have been processed to date at four cashless-tolling locations. We expect the same of our newest AET conversions at the Gateway Toll Point near Ohio in Lawrence County and the Greensburg Bypass (PA Turnpike 66) in Westmoreland County. Nine years ago, we undertook an AET feasibility study at a time when E-ZPass users were at around 60%. Today, our studies and pilot conversions have been completed and now more than 80% of our travelers prefer E-ZPass.”
Although no official announcement has yet been made, TransCore is expected to complete the Turnpike’s transition to full ORT operations. The company has served the PTC since the 1930’s, and has deployed its Infinity Digital Lane System, which integrates automatic vehicle identification, classification, and video capture and recognition systems, at all the PA Turnpike’s other AET locations. Last week, TransCore opened a newly renovated office complex in the state at Harrisburg. The facility consolidates several offices in the area and includes approximately 50,000 square feet of conditioned space in two buildings. The main building houses primarily office space and an auxiliary unit provides additional space for test lane monitoring, lane software testing, and warehousing. The complex also includes full-scale gantries spanning seven lanes for testing a variety of sensors, antennas, and lane configurations.