PENNSYLVANIA — Despite increased traffic, most county residents are avoiding the tollway, citing the cost. On The Times’ Facebook page, Thomas Wegman pointed to rising costs as the main reason for not using the toll road. He added that traffic jams and construction were contributing to high costs. Daniel Collidge, a professional truck driver from Youngstown, Ohio, travels around Pennsylvania hauling auto parts, and also worries about rising costs.
The reasons for the rate hikes are complex. Jhe Turnpike Commission needs to raise rates to pay off its debt, and a five percent increase is too much, especially considering the state’s economy is hurting. Its traffic numbers are low compared to previous years, and the state’s recent virus restrictions are a contributing factor. The commission only publishes traffic reports until February 2020, so it is impossible to determine how much traffic will pass through the system in January. However, a drop in traffic could persist throughout the summer.
The increase was widely anticipated since the toll increase in 2009. However, the increase is not sudden. The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission has a mandate to raise fares every three years for the next 15 years. The toll increase will cover both road projects and public transit. Additionally, the Turnpike Commission will continue to issue debt against toll revenue, and it is already at $15 billion.