Pennsylvania Turnpike Authority officials yesterday announced a proposed electronic tolling plan on Interstate 80 that would implement nine stations along the roadway, bringing in roughly $450 million of toll revenue each year.

Officials said the authority's goal is to generate additional revenue on the 311-mile stretch while reigning in traffic diversion onto local, non-tolled roads. The Turnpike's toll conversion project manager, Barry Schoch of McCormick Taylor Inc., said the authority will offer the E-ZPass system where motorists pre-pay their toll use at a discounted rate.

In addition, passenger cars using E-ZPass will be charged at the second toll-collection point, giving motorists an initial free toll at the start of their trip. Officials say preliminary traffic studies indicate that the two incentives will allow 70% of passenger cars to not pay tolls, and therefore keeping motorists on I-80 and not diverting to local roads.

Meanwhile, even with those incentives, the PTA anticipates collecting approximately $450 million of toll revenue annually. This is due in part to the authority constructing only electronic tolling stations called gantries that either deduct tolls from motorists' prepaid E-ZPass accounts or record non-E-ZPass users license plates via video cameras and send a toll bill through the mail.

Officials say that electronic tolling is more cost effective than traditional tolling stations that require additional infrastructure and labor costs. Schoch said the expense of building nine cash stations would cost the authority $700 million for the first 10 years, compared to the anticipated $200 million it would cost the PTA to construct the nine gantries.

"The objective is clearly to maximize our revenue while minimizing diversion," Schoch said during yesterday's press conference.

While Act 44 allows the authority to implement 10 different tolling stations on I-80, Schoch said the PTA is looking at building only nine toll locations. On average, there would be one gantry for every five or six interchanges. The authority data pegs the average rate per mile for passenger cars at .08 cents and .30 cents for trucks while total state-wide trip costs would be $25 for passenger cars and $93 for trucks.

The authority is waiting to hear back from the Federal Highway Administration on whether the state can implement tolls on the interstate. Officials anticipate receiving the FHWA's answer by early fall.

In mid-July, the PTA announced that tolling I-80 would support a proposed $2.5 billion, 10-year capital plan that would update 83% of the roadway and replace 60 of its bridges. In addition, the tolling plan would increase infrastructure funding on I-80 by $200 million per year compared to current funding levels. Currently, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation oversees I-80, yet Act 44 allows for the state to enter into a public-public partnership in which PennDOT leases I-80 to the PTA for 50 years in return for yearly payments.

Act 44 isn't the only transportation funding option for Pennsylvania. Lawmakers are currently reviewing a $12.8 billion concession agreement that would allow the state to lease the 530-mile Turnpike to Citi and Abertis Infraestructuras, a joint consortium, for 75 years.

Gov. Edward Rendell's administration deemed Citi/Abertis the winning bidder in late May, yet the transaction, which includes the private company financing the Turnpike's $5.5 billion, 10-year capital program, will need to pass through the legislature before becoming law.

The Turnpike runs east-west along the southern region of the state from New Jersey to Ohio while I-80 runs parallel to the Turnpike through the state's central region.

Subscribe Now

Independent and authoritative analysis and perspective for the bond buying industry.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.