Many Agencies Raising Tolls For Capital Improvement Projects
Road Widening and Technology Upgrades Lead Lists
Drivers across many of the nation’s toll roads will find themselves pitching more change into the basket as they pass barriers in 2017, as a number of states’ tolling agencies announced they are preparing to raise costs. Pennsylvania’s Turnpike Commission announced its rate increase in July, via an online news release. The Ohio Turnpike Commission began raising rates in 2013, and the commission has already published Ohio’s annual rate increases on its website through 2023. Illinois announced its rate increase for 2017 early in 2016.
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Oklahoma Toll exhibit from NewsOK.com. Illinois Tollway rate card from Illinois Tollway. Ohio Turnpike toll rates from The Ohio Turnpike Commission. Pennsylvania Turnpike rates from the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission.
In making its announcement for 2017, the PA Turnpike Commission said its toll increases were necessary to fund a “10-year spending plan which invests more than $5.77-billion” into the turnpike system. Part of that plan, the commission said, includes road widening and reconstruction projects.
The Ohio Turnpike Commission issued a proclamation, in 2013, that stated, in part, “[T]oll rate increases are needed to pay any increased operating costs over the next ten years, as well as increases in debt service payments required because of the issuance of Turnpike Revenue Bonds.”
Meanwhile, Illinois has been on a massive technology and infrastructure improvement plan that, this year, included a major upgrade of the Jane Addams Memorial Highway, in addition to improvements on other toll roads of the Illinois Tollway system. The current set of price increases is due to impact primarily truckers. New all-electronic tolling systems are also set to become operational Illinois’ Route 390 later in 2017, according to the state’s official toll website.
Different Dates For Toll Rate Hikes From State To State
Not all 2017 increases are happening on New Year’s Day. While Illinois and Ohio are hiking rates on January 1, Pennsylvania is giving drivers a one-week grace period, of sorts. Penna rates will go up on January 8.
However, not all 2017 toll rate increases have been finalized, and not all state toll agencies know whether they plan to raise rates.
Some Toll Adjustments In Some States Still Uncertain
The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority had planned a 12% toll increase that would take effect January 1, but a challenge to the bond issue the increase would fund has put the precise date, and the increase, in doubt, said Jack Damrill, the authority’s Director of Communications and Facilities.
However, Mr. Damrill sounded confident Oklahoma’s tolls would be adjusted in the coming year, regardless of the state’s Supreme Court case. “There is a good possibility the toll increase could be put on hold until the outcome of the litigation,” he wrote in an email, adding, “In short, our tolls will be changing sometime in 2017.”
Chad Huff, with Florida’s Department of Transportation, said authorities in that state were unsure about any toll increase on Florida’s Turnpike in 2017, even though the state’s legislature has authorized the agency to raise rates to keep up with U.S. Consumer Price Index, a process the state calls “toll indexing.” Huff said Florida’s toll agency would review the potential for a 2017 increase well after the start of the year, suggesting a decision may be made early in the second quarter of 2017. “Our toll rates are evaluated in the Spring, for possible implementation in the Summer,” Huff wrote TurnpikeInfo.com. “Best to check back in April.” Florida typically raises rates in July, although there were no increases in 2016.
Indiana, Massachusetts Hike Rates In 2016
Some states have already raised rates ahead of the coming new year. Tolls across Indiana went up July 1, after an announcement by the Indiana Toll Road Concession Company, a private-sector company contracted to run the state’s 157-mile toll highway. The ITR connects to the Chicago Skyway on the west end and to the Ohio Turnpike at the east gate. The ITRCC announced the hike only two months before it officially took effect.
In Massachusetts, the residents and visitors traveling the Massachusetts Turnpike were introduced to new tolls on October 28, 2016, along with a new all-electronic toll system that no longer accepts cash. The Mass Pike, as it is known colloquially, connects to the New York State Thruway on the west end of the state, and to Boston and Logan International Airport in the east.
No Toll Increases For New Jersey, New York
In New York, a spokeswoman at the New York State Thruway press office said Governor Andrew Cuomo had frozen future toll increases until after 2020.