C O M M I S S I O N N E W S R E L E A S E
Bill Capone (717) 939-9551,
June 29, 2004
PA TURNPIKE REMINDS CUSTOMERS ABOUT AUGUST 1 TOLL INCREASE
Represents first hike in 13 years
HARRISBURG, PA --- Beginning at 12:01 a.m. on August 1, 2004 tolls will increase on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. The tolls for passenger vehicles will increase 1.8 cents per mile from the current rate of 4.1 cents per mile to a new rate of 5.9 cents per mile. Commercial vehicles would see an average increase of 5.3 cents per mile. The increase matches the rate of inflation over the 13 years since the last hike in 1991.
Pennsylvania Turnpike CEO Joseph G. Brimmeier said the increase will allow the Turnpike to double its current rate of capital spending over the next 10 years, allowing the Turnpike Commission to fund critical infrastructure improvements along the aging east-west “Main Line” and Northeastern Extension. “These are projects,” he said, “that, if not completed, will threaten the safety and economic viability of a vital commercial highway system that is expected to carry 183 million vehicles in 2004.”
“The Turnpike is an essential link in Pennsylvania’s economic and recreational infrastructure and a vital connector to America’s northeast corridor,” said Brimmeier. “And the critical and long-overdue need to invest significantly more in Turnpike safety improvements and reconstruction has been well documented and widely reported. It has been 13 years since Turnpike tolls have gone up, and more than a quarter-century since we’ve had an increase that was earmarked to rebuild the original roadway.
“When engineers designed the Turnpike prior to World War II, opening year traffic was projected to be no more than about 1 million vehicles a year. They certainly could not have foreseen that number would soar to more than 180 million vehicles per year – or that some of those vehicles would weigh as much as 150,000 pounds.
“Today, our Turnpike is safe and reliable. But the cold truth is that it will not be safe and reliable much longer if we do not act now. And the only way we can do that is to increase tolls.”
More than $1.3 billion, over the next 10 years, has been earmarked to rebuild the Turnpike roadway at an approximate cost of $10 million per mile. Comparing that figure to the $450,000 per mile to construct the original roadway, dramatically demonstrates the cost escalation of transportation and construction projects.
Brimmeier said every penny of new toll revenue will fund capital improvements to the Turnpike’s road surface, its more than 800 bridges, five tunnels and other system upgrades. “Not one cent will go toward new administration costs or increased bureaucracy,” Brimmeier said. “This is all about investing in the best – and oldest – toll road in America.”
Without the additional toll revenue, Brimmeier said the Turnpike only could afford to upgrade about four miles of highway a year. The toll increase would enable the Turnpike to completely rebuild approximately13 miles of the original road surface each year, and to replace bridges that are more than 50 years old.
The last toll increase in 1991 was mandated by the Pennsylvania Legislature to cover the cost of new Turnpike expansion projects. The last time tolls were increased to cover the costs of improvements to the original stretch of highway was in 1978 – more than a quarter-century ago.
The Commission’s 10-Year Capital Plan substantially accelerates the total reconstruction of the original mainline of the Turnpike, along with bridges that are soon to pass their life expectancy of 50 years. Improvements would include wider shoulders, the widening of medians from 10 feet to 50 feet, where possible, and adding new lanes to accommodate projected traffic increases. Additionally, sections that still have steel median barriers will be upgraded to concrete barriers, significantly reducing glare from opposing traffic.
The Turnpike was originally engineered in the 1940s to accommodate 1.3 million vehicles annually. Traffic since has increased well beyond those levels. In 1991, approximately 102 million vehicles traveled on the Turnpike; in 1994, that figure shot up to 121 million; and in 2000, that number increased to 160 million, including 21.3 million heavy commercial vehicles. This year, more than 180 million vehicles are projected to travel the Turnpike, including approximately 24 million heavy commercial vehicles.
“While no one likes the idea of paying higher tolls, we want to emphasize to our customers that every penny in increased tolls will go directly to the roads they drive on,” Brimmeier said. “Our customers’ safety is our number-one priority. We owe it to them to advance construction projects that will improve and enhance our roadway and ensure them the safest and smoothest trips possible.”
Highway maintenance and upgrades are funded entirely by tolls. While construction of new toll roads – such as Southwestern Pennsylvania ’s Mon/Fayette Expressway – is paid for by legislatively mandated funding, no state taxpayer dollars pay for the maintenance of and improvements to the Turnpike’s east-west “ Main Line ” and Northeastern Extension.
P.O. Box 67676, Harrisburg, PA 17106-7676 Phone: (717) 939-9551 Fax: (717) 986-9649