Motorists can expect to pay more to use the Pennsylvania Turnpike come 2013.
The turnpike commission approved a rate hike that will bring a 10 percent increase for cash-paying customers and a 2 percent increase for motorists who use E-ZPass.
The new rates will go into effect on Jan. 6, 2013, according to the commission.
The last time tolls were increased was in 2011. That increase, and the most recent one, are needed to satisfy the commission's annual trans-
portation-funding obligation, according to Carl DeFebo Jr., spokesman for the commission.
Legislation passed in 2007 authorizes the annual increase for projects such as road and bridge improvements. The commission is obligated to pay the state Department of Transportation $450 million annually until the 50-year agreement ends in 2057.
"To date, the commission has provided $3.4 billion in financial support under that act," said Roger Nutt, CEO of the commission.
Not a trend: At the start of 2013, the annual fee for non-commercial E-ZPass customers will drop from $6 to $3 per transponder.
Those who use E-ZPass are expected to save about 25 percent compared to motorists who pay with cash.
Roughly 68 percent of vehicles that travel the turnpike use E-ZPass to pay tolls. All told, there are 1.5 million E-ZPass transponders in the state, DeFebo said.
"It's definitely more than just a trend," he said of E-ZPass use.
All electronic: The commission also announced it has named HNTB Corp., which has offices in Philadelphia, Norristown, Harrisburg and Pittsburgh, to be the program manager to head the potential implementation of a cashless, all-electronic tolling system.
An all-electronic system offers advantages such as enhanced safety, a cleaner environment, better flowing traffic and improved customer convenience and operational efficiencies, DeFebo said.
It would also mean motorists would no longer be able to pay tolls with cash.
Instead, they could either have to get an E-ZPass or would be billed after using the turnpike.
How it could work is cameras would capture images of vehicles that pass under detectors, and a bill would be mailed to drivers' homes after they use the turnpike, DeFebo said.
The conversion to an all-electronic system is expected to take at least five years.
-- Reach Greg Gross at email@example.com.