Pennsylvania Turnpike: Free rides take big toll on finances

More than $104 million in Pennsylvania Turnpike tolls went uncollected last year as the agency fully converted to all-electronic tolling, with the millions of motorists who don’t use E-ZPass having a nearly 1 in 2 chance of riding without paying under the “toll-by-plate” license plate camera system.

An internal turnpike report issued in July and obtained by The Associated Press through a Right-to-Know Law request showed nearly 11 million out of the total of about 170 million turnpike rides generated no revenue for the agency in the year that ended May 31.

“We take this issue very seriously. It is a big number, there’s no question,” turnpike Chief Executive Mark Compton said. “But we, as an organization, are leaving no stone unturned in the way in which we’re going after that leakage.”

Toll revenue “leakage” – an industry euphemism for uncollected tolls – has become the focus of turnpike agencies across the country as the use of E-ZPass transponders and license plate cameras continues to spread.

It is a particular problem for the debt-strapped Pennsylvania Turnpike, where more than half of its total revenue goes to pay borrowing costs and tolls have more than quadrupled in 12 years for the minority of motorists who don’t have E-Z Pass to pay for rides.

Last year, license plates could not be identified in 1.8 million Pennsylvania Turnpike rides, bills were undeliverable in just over 1 million instances, and motor vehicle agencies failed to provide vehicle owner addresses more than 1.5 million times. An additional 6.7 million transactions were marked as “not paid.”

After tolls and fees go uncollected for about three years, the turnpike writes them off.

Source: Pennsylvania Turnpike: Free rides take big toll on finances