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Pa. Turnpike takes its toll: Travel cost rises 25%



Published: Thu, January 8, 2009 @ 12:00 a.m.

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Westgate of the Pa Turnpike or Welcome to high tolls

By Jeanne Starmack

It’s costing a lot more to keep on trucking.

Are you planning a ski trip out to Seven Springs, or a visit to Grandma in Philadelphia? It’s going to cost you more to take the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

At least you’re not a long-haul trucking company: They’re taking a much bigger hit to use the turnpike, where tolls increased 25 percent for cars and trucks beginning last Sunday.

Long-haul trucking companies in the Mahoning and Shenango valleys use the turnpike’s mainline to haul loads east toward Philadelphia.

The mainline begins at the Ohio border in New Springfield, drops south toward Pittsburgh and crosses the state to the Philadelphia area. It ends at the Delaware River bridge.

Beginning a trip by car at the Ohio line, a turnpike user would pay a flat rate of $3.75 in addition to tolls. For a tractor-trailer, it costs $18.75 in addition to whatever the driver has to pay for tolls. That flat rate used to be $3 for cars and $15 for trucks.

To haul steel to Philadelphia, it would cost PI & I Motor Express of Masury $168.75, around $42 more than it cost last year. The company frequently uses the road, getting on at the first Pennsylvania interchange in Warrendale. It uses flatbeds to haul steel for customers such as mills and car companies.

For a trucking company making daily trips, the tolls add up fast, said Mike Monos, the company’s vice president of compliance and operations.

“A 25 percent increase is a major, major hit,” said Monos, who also pointed out the state’s plan to increase tolls by 3 percent every year beginning in 2010. He said he believes the turnpike would actually see an increase in business if the state rolled back the rate increase.

With business slow because of the bad economy and the spectre of fuel-price increases, the rise in tolls is especially bad, he said.

Diesel fuel, he added, is at $3.50 a gallon — down some, but it hasn’t dropped like gasoline.

It wouldn’t be as bad, said Monos, if the increase would be used for the upkeep of the turnpike. But 90 percent of it is not.

“For the first time, tolls aren’t only going back into state toll roads, but helping to fund infrastructure improvements in every Pennsylvania county,” said turnpike CEO Joe Brimmeier in a prepared statement.

“In fact, more than 90 percent of the toll-increase proceeds will benefit nonturnpike road and bridge projects and transit operations,” he continued.

The state said the increase is required to meet financial obligations under Act 44, signed by Gov. Ed Rendell in July 2007. Under Act 44, the turnpike is providing $2.5 billion in supplemental transportation funding from August 2007 to May 2010.

The state had proposed making Interstate 80 a toll road to help meet Act 44 funding obligations, but the federal government stalled that plan last year.

Carl DeFebo, spokesman for the turnpike commission, said the I-80 proposal has nothing to do with the present mainline rate increase. He said the state planned all along to help satisfy Act 44 funding requirements with a 25 percent increase in 2009.

Bill Strimbu of Nick Strimbu Inc. trucking company in Brookfield said his company will not pass the increase on to customers. “It’s crazy the way the economy is now,” he said. “The customers can’t absorb it. So it’s up to us.”

Monos said his company is looking at alternative routes but said it keeps its trucks on main roads for safety reasons. A new route would also have to be cost-effective when taking fuel prices into consideration, he said.

He also said it’s tricky to pass costs on to customers when businesses are slowing down because of the economy.

“How will they absorb it,” he asked. “How will we?”


Comments

1pj(80 comments)posted 5 years, 8 months ago

It is confusing. Gas prices going up, road tolls going up, unemployment going up, no jobs, truly senseless what the governing people are doing.

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2Watchdog(1 comment)posted 5 years, 8 months ago

Well, as long as the government workers aren't willing to take concessions and government spending remians at current levels, they simply need to extract more from the pockets of the taxpayers.

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3Stan(9923 comments)posted 5 years, 8 months ago

The increased tolls are being used to fund the slums of Philadelphia.

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4metz87(884 comments)posted 5 years, 8 months ago

Wel lthere goes thee trcking industry. thanks Pennllyvaina you jsut put another nail in thee coffin. Like you really ahd to do this now when we are headed toward a depreseeion. they will get there's one day!

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5aeparish(669 comments)posted 5 years, 8 months ago

Well, at least if we're headed toward a depression... the people that live in the slums of Philadelphia probably won't be able to afford to make it to Youngstown.

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6Stan(9923 comments)posted 5 years, 8 months ago

The proper way to have funded the slums of Philadelphia would have been to double the tolls on the exit ramps to Philadelphia. They should look into putting toll booths on their streets also. Bulk purchases of street drugs from Mexico should be looked into also to lower their cost of living expenses.

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7scrooge(563 comments)posted 5 years, 8 months ago

I really hate the fact that when I have to go to Pittsburgh via the turnpike it costs $3.75 to go about 7 miles. OH toll would be about 50 cents.

Thanks PA, I've been avoiding your turnpike ever since.

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8trucker(1 comment)posted 5 years, 1 month ago

I work for PI+I where Mike Monos AKA "THE LIAR" works. You can beleave me when i tell you we THE DRIVERS took the hit from this toll increase. PI+I made us all take 3 pay cuts!! They didnt ask us or even let us know that we would be missing $200.00 plus $$$ a week out of our pay checks. I as well as many many other truck drivers went to get my paycheck only to come to find more than $200.00 missing. When we called and asked where the money is they replied we cut the rates. I myself said no one told me and the reply i got was WE DONT NEED TO TELL YOU, then they hung up the phone. Mike Monos is one of the biggest liars at PI+I... He is a scammer!!! He lies to you, you family, or who ever has an ear. He said to the paper about how they dont know how they will take the rate hike but yet they had it all planned out!!! If you doubt anything that i say look up how many blogs there are on the net about PI+I and how they screw the drivers on a daily basis. Mike Monos is a FRAUD!!! Dont beleave a word he says!!!!

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