Free rides increase to Pa. turnpike

The amount of annual uncollected tolls on the Pennsylvania Turnpike has increased nearly 50 percent in the past year, according to an Associated Press report.

A new government review is urging the Turnpike Commission to address the issue and make changes to improve its finances.

According to the AP report, the information stems from an internal study that says more than $104 million in tolls was collected from the Pa. Turnpike were left on the table in 2021. The AP says an update in May showed the number had grown to $155 million.

The report points out that the losses were expected after the turnpike switched to cash-taking in 2020 and hundreds of toll collectors and auditors were laid off.

Getty Images/Getty Images employees

Getty Images/Getty Images employees

Many vehicles have E-ZPass which is designed to record vehicle information and collect the toll information and bill drivers. Although turnpike cameras read license plates from non-E-ZPass vehicles and send invoices to their owners, there are problems with covered or faded license plates, camera system failures and money from Scofflaw drivers.

The Associate Press quotes turnpike officials as saying increased traffic and higher tolls are driving the increase.

In a written response, Turnpike chief executive Mark Compton said his agency is “actively engaged with the Legislature, the PA State Police and surrounding toll agencies to ensure we are taking all possible collection actions.”

The Auditor General’s Office said this week the Turnpike Board should curb or end free rides on the 565-mile tollway system for its own employees and contractors, even when they’re off-duty.

The Financial Regulator’s study found $3.2 million in free travel for Turnpike employees over a three-year period through May 2021. The cost of free travel for Turnpike contractors and consultants increased from $5.9 million in 2015-18 period to $8.4 million in 2018. 21, the audit said.

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