HARRISBURG, Pa. (KDKA/AP) — Tolls on the Pennsylvania Turnpike will increase in January for the seventh consecutive year.

The turnpike commission on Tuesday approved a five percent increase that will be applied evenly to cash and electronic E-ZPass tolls — marking the first time in three years that cash tolls are not subject to a steeper increase.

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Nearly three out of four turnpike drivers now use E-ZPass, tolls for which are at least 35 percent less than cash tolls, officials said.

The new rates, which take effect Jan. 4, will nudge the cost of the most common toll for passenger vehicles by a nickel to $1.09 for E-ZPass users and by a dime to $1.70 for cash customers, according to the commission.

The most common toll for tractor-trailers will increase from $8.62 to $9.05 for E-ZPass users and from $12.15 to $12.80 for cash customers.

Mark Compton, the turnpike’s chief executive, said annual toll increases are necessary “for the foreseeable future” to comply with laws requiring the commission to pay $450 million a year to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation for highway and bridge work outside the 550-mile turnpike. Under the transportation funding law approved last year, those payments are scheduled to shrink to $50 million a year by 2023.

Compton said the commission is working to hold down costs and that the popularity of E-ZPass has allowed a reduction in the number of toll collectors.

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While the new transportation funding law “does provide long-term financial relief, it does not eliminate our debt or funding obligation,” he said.

Some drivers say the increase seems high.

“I think they’re on the high side, along with the gas,” said driver Fred Robinson.

This is the seventh time since 2007 the fees have gone up and this time increases for everyone — 5 percent across the board. The commission says it’s worked hard to keep costs down, but some costs like road maintenance, employee pension costs and winter maintenance expenses are harder to control.

Turnpike Toll Booths Could Be Replaced With All-Electronic Tolling (3/27/14)
Pa. Turnpike Tolls To Increase In 2014 (12/30/13)
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Lynne Hayes-Freeland