HARRISBURG (KDKA) – Grab at least an extra dime when you head for the Pennsylvania Turnpike come January…and another dime the year after, and another dime the year after, and so on, and so on.
The turnpike has been piling up debt in the form of bonds for a number of years by a legislative directive to pay PennDOT the cost of funding mass transit across the state.READ MORE: Fourth Stimulus Check: Is Another Relief Payment Coming Your Way?
“Later this month, the turnpike anticipates making its final payment to the Commonwealth of $450 million dollars,” says PT Turnpike Spokesman Carl DeFebo.
But, and it’s a big but…“We are not completely off the hook for this funding obligation,” DeFebo says.
“We will continue to pay $50 million a year, it’ll be cash funded.”
So the turnpike won’t have to borrow any more to make the big payment but it still has to pay off the money it has borrowed…“About $7 billion of bond debt that the turnpike has been saddled with.”
So DeFebo says come January tolls will go up 5%.
“For instance, from, from Pittsburgh, interchange to Irwin, that’s $1.60 Right now, for EZPass users and it’s going to go up a dime to $1.70 next January,” he explains. “If you’re not an EZPass user that rate is going to go up from $3.90 to $4.10 for the same trip between Pittsburgh and Irwin.”
But finishing up the big payment doesn’t mean the end of rate increases.
“Over the next few years it’ll be 5% And then it’ll slowly taper down to 3%,” DeFebo says.
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In other words, tolls will still go up every year, just not as much.
Come January, a cross-state trip the length of the turnpike will cost you just under $50 dollars with EZPass.
Without EZPass that cross-state trip will cost your family just over $100.
So while the turnpike may get away from the big borrow each year Defebo says no decrease in tolls is on the horizon.
“You will not see an immediate impact on tolls,” he says.
So will tolls ever come down?
“I will say, not in the near future, I mean, you know, in, out, years, certainly they could be reduced,” he says. “We understand that people get frustrated with the toll rates. All we can try to do is be very transparent about why those tolls are going up.”
And DeFebo says the bottom line is that tolls, while going up each year, won’t be going up as much.
“You know, I do believe that with these lower rates of increase, it does become a bit more palatable,” he says. “There’s a bit of a silver lining here.”MORE NEWS: 'Itchy Mites:' Preventing Bites And The Itch That Comes With A Mite Bite
DeFebo says the bonds the turnpike is paying off are 30-year bonds.