The Butler Eagle’s editorial regarding a recent audit of the Pennsylvania Turnpike missed the mark on several fronts (Turnpike is traveling in circles, Sept. 12).
The driving factor behind our conversion to All-Electronic Tolling (AET) is customer preference. Customers favor electronic payments; in fact, more than 85% of Turnpike travelers choose E-ZPass.
AET allows us to increase access to our system by building new interchanges at a fraction of the cost. AET is safer by eliminating lane switching, and it increases mobility for customers. Lastly, AET is better for the environment, offering reduced idling and omissions.
Pennsylvania Auditor General Timothy DeFoor confirms our agency has continued to meet our commitments to customers even as we emerge from a pandemic that drastically impacted our operations, traffic and revenue.
The audit also confirms that we are meeting these challenges while continuing to shoulder the financial burden of Act 44. The Turnpike has taken on significant debt because of Act 44 — $8 billion in all — to pay PennDOT $450 million annually for more than a decade to support non-Turnpike transportation needs around the state.
Those annual payments have recently been reduced to $50 million annually and — while we have managed debt efficiently and controlled operating costs — paying down that accrued debt will require toll increases for decades.
As Auditor General DeFoor referenced, the Turnpike is vital to the Commonwealth’s economy, linking families and friends while accommodating cross-state commercial traffic; so, the annual toll increases necessitated by this debt are among the most difficult votes our commissioners must make each year.
We were encouraged by Auditor General DeFoor’s recommendation that the Turnpike and state legislature work together on measures to further relieve our organization from the resulting debt-service obligations — and release Turnpike travelers from these incessant, mandatory toll increases.
This is a statewide challenge that requires a sustainable solution to ensure a safe, growing transportation network to power Pa.’s economy.
CEO, PA Turnpike