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Drivers soon won’t need to slow down to pay on Pa. Turnpike

Photo of the west bound toll gate of the Pennsylvania Turnpike in Cranberry Township, Pa.
Keith Srakocic
In this photo made through a windshield, the sensors and lights are seen at the west bound toll gate of the Pennsylvania Turnpike in Cranberry Township, Pa., on Monday, Aug. 30, 2021. More than $104 million in Pennsylvania Turnpike tolls went uncollected last year as the agency fully converted to all-electronic tolling. Turnpike records show the millions of motorists who don’t use E-ZPass have a nearly 1 in 2 chance of riding without paying under the “toll-by-plate” license plate reader system.

The Pennsylvania Turnpike is getting rid of the toll booths that require drivers to slow down when entering or exiting the toll road. The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission is switching to cashless electronic tolling. The system will charge drivers through overhead readers that scan E-ZPass transponders or license plates for payment.

To the east of Reading, the new system is undergoing testing before being put into full use in January. In the western part of the state, the plan is to have the scanners fully functional in early 2027.

Turnpike Commission spokesman Crispin Havener said it’s part of an attempt to modernize the tolling system and make the process easier for drivers.

“This is a way for us just to fulfill what customers tell us that they want from us — to make it as seamless and convenient for them as possible to travel on the Pennsylvania Turnpike,” Havener said.

The project costs about $3 million per scanner. Havener said the change will save money in the long-run, because the commission won’t have to maintain and operate the current toll plazas, which will be torn down after the new electronic tolling system is fully up and running.

He added the new approach will also help with safety and environmental concerns.

Decreasing the amount of cars slowing down and accelerating through the toll plazas will cut carbon dioxide emissions, and, according to Havener, reduce driver errors that can lead to accidents.

“So, eliminate that confusion and lane switching that you see at the toll booth, which obviously creates unsafe conditions — a lot of people weaving and lane-changing,” he said.

Drivers don’t need to make any changes to their driving habits to use the new systems. Havener said any E-ZPass holders should make sure their transponders are secured on the inside of their windshields, so it is available to be read when passing under the scanners.