Tuesday, July 17, 2012
Science Technology

PA Turnpike Tolling Could Become Fully Electronic

Feasibility Study Says New System Could Mean Cost, Time Savings

Paying a toll on the Pennsylvania turnpike could become a thing of the past…well, kind of.
(PA Turnpike Commission)
Artist rendering of electronic system that could replace toll collectors

Paying a toll on the Pennsylvania turnpike could become a thing of the past…well, kind of.

The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission announced it will continue to pursue a conversion to an All-Electronic Toll (AET) collection system, which could enhance safety, improve customer convenience and increase operational efficiency.

Instead of drivers stopping and paying via E-Z pass or with cash, motorists would drive through a set of overhanging video cameras. If the driver has an E-Z pass, then the toll amount will be deducted from their account. If the driver doesn’t have an E-Z pass, the cameras will photograph the license plate and send the car owner a bill for the toll.

Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission spokesman Carl DeFebo says this video tolling technology is very reliable and has already been used by Pennsylvania, although in a different format.

If you get into an E-Z pass lane and you don’t have E-Z pass for whatever reason in Pennsylvania today, we will take a photo image of your license plate and send you a violation in the mail, and so that technology has been proven,” DeFebo said.

According to the feasibility study, AET could save the turnpike commission about $40 million per year in operating costs, and delay times would be reduced between 20 and 93 percent. For example, the commission expects AET to reduce traffic delays by 82 percent at the New Stanton interchange.

Yet these potential improvements could make obsolete the jobs of 730 toll collectors, but DeFebo says he can't say if there will be layoffs.

It’s too soon to say if we can deal with all that through attrition, if we can assist with any type of job placement or retraining, or if some of those folks can get absorbed into the other departments of the turnpike,” DeFebo said.

According to the feasibility study all of these projections and estimates wouldn’t begin for at least five years.