11 Turnpike toll hikes in a row – payoff not obvious

For the 11th year in a row, motorists’ tolls on the 359-mile Pennsylvania Turnpike are going up.

So that’s more than a decade of annual increases to drive the turnpike.

The tolls went up 6 percent starting Sunday, meaning for passenger vehicles traveling the length of the Turnpike the increase goes from $55 to $58 for those paying with cash. For E-ZPass tag holders, the cost goes from $39.25 to $41.60.

State Auditor General Eugene DePasquale is not sure these annual increases are necessary. His office is conducting a review of turnpike finances and usage. We await those findings with heightened interest.

DePasquale says increasing tolls could eventually lead motorists to choose other routes.

We are not so sure about that and Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission CEO Mark Compton says the agency hasn’t seen signs of a sustained drop in usage.

Fair enough.

But if we are to assume this money is being used to maintain the Turnpike, some understandable angst among Pennsylvania’s paying motorists is entirely understandable.

It seems like portions of the Turnpike are always under repair unless it’s winter, with traffic lanes reduced and travel time unpredictable. Just one year we would like to see the entire Turnpike be an uninterrupted travel experience, minus the cones and concrete barriers.

And even at its best, the Turnpike is a tough travel assignment at night, with two lanes on each side and claustrophobic concrete barriers within a few feet of the passing lane.

Some of the trappings of the Turnpike may not be preventable.

But it is fair to ask if 11 consecutive toll increases are being fully reflected in the driving experience that is the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

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