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Like clockwork, new year means higher road tolls on Pa. turnpike

Happy New Year. And oh, by the way, tolls on the Pennsylvania Turnpike will be going up 6 percent.

New Year’s wishes and the toll increase seem to go hand in hand. This is the 12th consecutive year the tolls have been increased.

The raised tolls are part of a 2007 design to raise more than $10 billion for infrastructure improvements and debt service.

Well, one part of the plan has worked. The tolls have been raised. It now costs $53.50 to travel from the Ohio River to the Delaware River near Levittown. If you have an EZ Pass, the rate will climb by $2.20 to $38.40.

As a result, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission has $700 million to work with.

But about that debt service. About half the revenue will go toward paying it off in the coming year because of the plan to pay for highway improvements through tolls.

As for the actual highway improvements, it’s debatable whether they match the robust cost of the tolls.

We are not alone in questioning whether the plan is working.

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale fears the toll hikes will lead people to find other routes and further stress the commission’s finances and ability to help fund the state Department of Transportation.

“The turnpike simply cannot continue to raise tolls to cover the legally mandated payment to PennDOT,” he said.

But that was last March.

This is January and they are going up again.

Whether motorists travel the turnpike or any part of the spider web known as the Pennsylvania highway system, it is understandable that they might question whether the chronically increased tolls are getting the job done.

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