Turnpike Won’t Go All Electronic Tolling for Now

The Ohio Turnpike does not plan to institute all electronic toll collecting or to end the use of human toll takers, at least for now.

Turnpike officials said they will continue to take cash, credit cards and E-Z Pass for the foreseeable future although the agency is undertaking a toll modernization project.

The modernization program, which is expected to be completed by the end of 2022, will allow for “open road tolling” in which motorists with an E-Z pass can travel the length of the 241-mile turnpike without slowing down.

Turnpike spokesman Brian Newbacher said use of the E-Z Pass in Ohio is not high enough to justify ending the ability to pay tolls with cash or credit card.

Cameras could be used to photograph license plates of vehicles without an E-Z Pass as they pass through a toll plaza with the license plate holder receiving a bill in the mail.

That is the practice on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, which has also furloughed  its toll takers as it moved to an all-electronic tolling system.

The downside to that system is that not all motorists pay their bill and in some instances the toll can’t be collected.

On the Ohio Turnpike, more than 35 percent of users paid tolls by cash or a credit card, which netted nearly $90 million in revenue last year.

In Pennsylvania, about 20 percent of users paid by cash or credit in 2019.

Last November, 83 percent of Pennsylvania Turnpike users paid tolls with an E-Z Pass.

Of the 9 percent of users who had a photo taken of their license plate, 5 percent have yet to pay and 3 percent of the tolls were unbillable due to an obscured plate or insufficient address.

Newbacher said Ohio Turnpike officials expect that in time they will move to an all-electronic system, but E-Z Pass use is not expected to a level to justify that for at least another seven to 12 years.

Pennsylvania justified furloughing toll takers in part as a plan to seek to stop the spread of COVID-19, but Ohio Turnpike officials believes they have adequately addressed any health concerns by installing protective shields in toll booths, issuing hand sanitizer and gloves to toll collectors, sanitizing each toll booth once a week.

The Ohio Turnpike employs 159 toll collectors who earn from $21.53 to $26.95 a hour for fulltime collectors. The 166 part-time toll collectors are paid from $18.25 to $20.77 an hour.

The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission laid off nearly 500 employees and moved up its switch to all-electronic tolling from a planned date of October 2021.

Ohio’s modernization plan will also involve installation of directional aides to help channel traffic and building new “mainline” plazas near Toledo and Youngstown.

That will lead to the elimination of several little-used toll plazas at exits and entrances at each end of the turnpike where tolls will no longer be collected.

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