The Phoenix

Take steps to avoid tolling ‘sticker shock’


There’s no shortage of things to complain about when it comes to driving these days, whether it’s the high cost of gas or the poor quality of roadways. And we’ve never been shy about objecting to year after year of toll increases on the Pennsylvan­ia Turnpike.

But there’s another troubling aspect of highway tolling that the Pennsylvan­ia CapitalSta­r raised in a recent report. Many motorists have no idea how much they’re paying.

The turnpike hasn’t distribute­d paper tickets for tolling since June 2020. The highway relies entirely on an electronic system to track motorists and calculate their tolls. Motorists with E-ZPass have the amount charged to the credit card linked to their account. For others, the system takes a photo of their license plate and bills them by mail.

The problem does pose a conundrum. Ideally people shouldn’t be surprised to find out how much their trip cost days or weeks after they traveled. But there’s not really a practical way to transmit the informatio­n.

Putting up a sign listing rates for a bridge or tunnel is relatively simple. It’s pretty much one price. There may be slight variations depending on such things as the time of day and E-ZPass usage, but the price list is pretty short.

There are dozens of interchang­es on the turnpike, and the toll varies depending on where the driver got on the highway and where they exit. Even back when the turnpike gave out paper tickets with a table outlining the various toll possibilit­ies, it wasn’t all that easy to read. Trying to put that informatio­n on a road sign would be pointless, not to mention dangerous for any driver who actually attempted to read it.

The best that can be done is to spread the word that the informatio­n is available on the turnpike’s website (www., which lists the rates and has a toll calculator tool. It would be an especially good idea for Pennsylvan­ia residents expecting outof-town visitors to share the informatio­n so they can factor it in when they plan their route.

We’re talking serious money here. The days of throwing a handful of change in a basket are long gone. A trip all the way across the state on the turnpike costs nearly $50 with E-ZPass and a whopping $95 without.

Turnpike officials said there have been incidents of visitors to Pennsylvan­ia complainin­g of “sticker shock” when the bill for their journey came in. Informing people ahead of time can prevent such surprises.

Another issue raised in the Capital-Star report has to do with billing errors in the turnpike tolling system. One part of the problem is that the turnpike has lost out on millions of dollars in bills due to failures in the system.

And we agree with activist Jim Sikorski Jr. of the National Motorists Associatio­n when he notes that there should be some way for a driver to know if the turnpike’s toll booth transponde­r successful­ly read the vehicle’s EZ-Pass. Right now you don’t know until you get a bill in the mail for the toll.

Here are a few tips on this subject for Pennsylvan­ia residents and visitors to the area.

If you don’t have an EZPass, get one. It offers significan­t savings on tolls in Pennsylvan­ia and nearby states, and eliminates the need to wait at toll booths where cash payment is still an option.

E-ZPass holders should check their statements regularly and keep a close eye on their credit card bills. The latter is good advice under any circumstan­ces, of course. Too many people fail to notice what charges they’re facing month after month. In a world where there are so many services that automatica­lly take money from people’s credit cards every month, it’s vital to keep track. Doing so is also crucial for identifyin­g fraudulent activity.

We wish traveling weren’t so expensive, but that’s the reality. At least people should know what they’re getting into before they leave.

Avoid unpleasant surprises by spreading the word about how to get informatio­n on the cost of traveling on the turnpike.

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