Findlay Connector among Pennsylvania toll hikes

Drivers will find increases today

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Tolls are increasing on Turnpike Route 576, also known as the Findlay Connector, for the first time since the six-mile expressway opened in 2006.

The new toll for cash customers is 75 cents, up from 50 cents. E-ZPass users will pay 63 cents, or 13 cents more.

The changes are part of a systemwide toll increase on the Pennsylvania Turnpike and its various extensions and segments that took effect at 12:01 a.m. today. Cash tolls on most of the 554-mile system went up 10 percent; E-ZPass rates were increased 2 percent.

The turnpike commission has raised tolls in each of the past five years, mainly to finance $450 million in annual payments to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation that are mandated by state law. Since passage of Act 44 in 2007, the turnpike has paid $3.6 billion to PennDOT for non-turnpike road and bridge projects and mass transit.

Officials said the increases also are needed to fund capital improvements to the turnpike, including full reconstruction and widening from four to six lanes. The commission said it has rebuilt more than 100 miles at an average cost of $20 million per mile.

A ride in a two-axle vehicle over the entire 359-mile turnpike mainline now costs $39.15 eastbound and $33.90 westbound for cash customers; $30.77 eastbound and $26.71 westbound for E-ZPass holders.

A trip from Monroeville to Breezewood, which cost $6.50 before the string of annual increases, is now $11.25 in cash, $8.79 with E-ZPass.

More than two-thirds of the turnpike's travelers now use the electronic fare collection method, and turnpike officials hope to persuade more drivers to switch to E-ZPass. Because of differential toll increases over the past three years, cash customers now pay about 27 percent more than E-ZPass users.

The turnpike plans to eliminate cash collections altogether over the next five years.

The Findlay Connector runs from Interstate 376 near Pittsburgh International Airport to Route 22 in northern Washington County. The connector accommodates about 5,000 vehicles per day, according to the turnpike commission. It is the first piece of what the turnpike hopes will be a Southern Beltway stretching from the airport to the Mon-Fayette Expressway near Finleyville.

New toll rates also took effect today on the turnpike's section of Interstate 376, also known as the Beaver Valley Expressway; Turnpike Route 66 in Westmoreland County, also known as the Amos K. Hutchinson Bypass; and Turnpike 43, also known as the Mon-Fayette Expressway, stretching from West Virginia to Jefferson Hills.

E-ZPass information

Pennsylvania Turnpike E-ZPass transponders can be used on 25 toll roads and bridges in 14 other states: Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, Virginia and West Virginia.

When the driver passes a tolling point, the toll is automatically deducted from a prepaid account.

Drivers can enroll online at www.paturnpike.com or by calling 1-877-736-6727, or at most AAA offices and selected Giant Eagle, GetGo, Walmart, Acme, Karns and Wegmans stores. A comprehensive list of E-ZPass retail locations is available at www.paturnpike.com/ezpass/sales. E-ZPass also is available at vending machines in some turnpike travel plazas.

The turnpike has lowered the annual service fee from $6 per transponder to $3. There is no deposit fee if the user agrees to automatic account replenishment using a credit or debit card, which is charged $35 whenever the customer's account balance drops below $10.

For customers who want to replenish their accounts manually, a $10 transponder deposit fee is charged at enrollment.

electionspa - state - Transportation - neigh_west

Jon Schmitz: jschmitz@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1868. Visit the PG's transportation blog, The Roundabout, at www.post-gazette.com/Roundabout. Twitter: @pgtraffic.


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