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The Pennsylvania Turnpike

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People have been reading my blog since it’s inception will probably recognize this post. It’s about turnpikes, and why I think they should eliminate the Pennsylvania Turnpike, and more importantly the PA Turnpike Commission. The reason I am posting it again is because the PA turnpike commission is passing a toll increase on the turnpike from 4.1 cents a mile to 5.9 cents a mile, rounded up to the closest .25 cents. It is an old road, and past its time. It’s like a rotary phone you pay for every month on your phone bill. It’s a throwback to a different time. A time that should be forgotten.

Here’s what I had to say 4 months ago:

I’ve about had it with the Pennsylvania Turnpike. More importantly, I hate the PA Turnpike Commission. In case you don’t know, the turnpike is a toll road. You pay 4.1 cents per mile to drive on it. This throwback to the early days of interstate travel is past it’s prime. The toll booths should be bulldozed, and the civil servant hacks at the commission should be sent to hold signs at PennDot.

Right now the Turnpike Commission is seeking to raise its per mile rate to compensate for rebuilding the aging road first opened over 60 years ago. The last toll increase was in 1991. But what do we get for these tolls?

The answer is, nothing spectacular. In its prime it was a marvel. A feat of engineering. It’s just an old highway now. The road is bumpy and crumbling. If you stop at the travel plazas scattered along the state-wide 4-laner, you will pay ridiculous prices for gasoline, and eat mediocre overpriced food. As I speak, the current rate for gasoline on the turnpike is about 15 cents a gallon more than that off the turnpike. A Burger King value meal is about $1.50 more on the turnpike than off.

The big wigs at the commission say the high food and gas prices is to compensate for increased costs of being open 24 hours. Well, many gas stations are open 24 hours, and they don’t overcharge. Most restaurants located in the Turnpike travel plazas aren’t even open 24 hours, so they have no excuse. It’s just plain exploitation of a captive audience. They gotcha captive, and they may as well squeeze some more money from you.

In this day and age most of our highways are paid for with gasoline taxes and fees on auto registration and so forth. So why does this pay-as-you-go road still exist? Why are we paying twice, once with taxes and once with tolls, to support a road, where other superior roads are “free”?

I am further disgusted becuase our beloved hated governor Edward G. Rendell supports this toll increase. This comes after an income tax increase, cigarette tax increase, and newly mandated emissions inspections which alone will cost $45 a year. All of these, and more, took effect January 1st.

For people who never drive the turnpike, this is a moot point. For a frequent turnpike traveler it’s terrible. For many small businesses who rely on this road, this could be a killer. Between the numerous tax and fee increases, this toll increase could cause businesses to leave Pennsylvania.

All in all, the Pennsylvania Turnpike, and the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission are throwbacks to a time when there were no highways, it was a grand experiement that was brilliant at the time. But now the petri dish needs washed out as the experiment has turned into some kind of funky furry mess that costs too much to feed, and keeps wanting more and more.

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About Tom Bux

  • Eric Olsen

    Thanks Tom, I drive the Penn turnpike pretty often going to my sister’s in Northern Virginia from Ohio, and I agree it’s an overpriced mess. It is dangerous – especially in bad weather – and far too curvy for a supposed turnpike/freeway-type road. In daytime and good weather it’s a pretty drive, but at night or in wet or snowy weather it’s a nightmare. Being from California, I have never understood the toll-road concept in the first place: why the hell should you have to pay to use a road beyond what you already pay in gasoline taxes and auto license fees anyway? It totally screws up traffic, wastes time, ansd makes driving in parts of the Midwest and East an enormous pain in the ass. Abolish all toll roads except for commercial vehicles.

  • Jay

    I travel the turnpike occasionally and agree with the article but one thing I thought would have been mentioned is the condition of the roads! The condition of the roads are not the best but I have never had a problem with damage to my car from the roads… Until 1-17-2006. I had traveled from PA to NC to purchase a somewhat hard to come by car. The trip was great, the weather was nice, the car was perfect, me and my wife had a really nice time. We left NC on 1-17-2006 and were traveling the turnpike home to Northeast PA, it was night time and it was raining pretty hard. We were driving at about 60 mph when I hit a hole in the road (I say hole and not pothole because it was a massive hole in the road), the whole front of my car fell right in the hole and slammed real hard, I quickly slowed down to about 40 mph and all of a sudden 2 huge holes again!!! I couldnt see the hole with how hard it was raining because they were filled with water so it looked like just a normal part of the road. I couldnt believe it, I swerved into the left lane and drove about 30 mph just to make sure the car was okay and the tires were ok. Just up the road I seen a Dodge Intrepid on the side of the road with his flashers on, as I passed I seen the whole half of his drivers bumper was broke and his wheel was flat. I was so mad! My car was damaged, but I was also mad because we could have been seriously hurt, if we hit one of those holes the wrong way it could of done alot more damage. Anyway, at least we were okay and we finally made it home. After getting home I contacted the PA Turnpike Commission to make a claim, they said ok and to send in 2 estimates. I sent them 2 estimates and a couple weeks later I received a letter saying they are not responsible for damage from natural causes. So, what I dont get is why should I pay to travel the turnpike? To have my car damaged? I dont understand, they are not responsible for their roads yet our tolls we pay is to have the roads maintained?? What a rip off!

  • Hobie

    I drove east on the Pennsylvania Turnpike on Feb 12, 2010. There had been a significant snow storm two days earlier. Near mile marker 50 the two-lane highway abruptly became a one-lane passage with no warning, no signs, no lights — the right lane just ended. I reported this to the toll-taker later that evening; he said, “Yeah, I know about that.” This kind of negliegence is completely unacceptable and someone needs to be called to public shame for such poor management.

  • kj

    in jan 2009 i had the luxury of driving from md to pgh on the turnpike and saw what appeared to be half of a blown out truck tire in the middle of the lane. it was in an area where there wasn’t any shoulder so i had no where to swerve. the guy in front of me did but no one was in the other lane. instead of causing a 4 car accident i decided to go over it. much to my surprise it was not a tire, but instead a concrete slab. my 1 yr old car with only 19,000 now has a used transmission and engine from a junkyard in ohio. awesome. thank you turnpike for making us pay to drive on your unsafe roads.

  • Dave

    I live is Wheeling and drive to Allentown and Washington DC frequently and I refuse to use the expensive turnpike. I drive the extra distance down to Morgan town and take the 68 across. The 68 is a much better Interstate and it is free.

  • Wait.. You don’t like the turnpike because they want to maintainit?

    You don’t like it because restaurants charge more for the convenience of eating without fighting city traffic?

    Some states — and I’m pretty sure Pennsylvania is one of them — use turnpikes as cash cows, diverting toll collections into everything from maintenance of other highways to politicians’ slush funds.

    Come out to Kansas some time and see how a well managed, well maintained turnpike works.

  • laurac68

    God, I’m glad I live in Virginia!

  • harry

    The turnpikes of PA and Ohio are a big joke. What a rip off. I can’t believe people are forced to drive on a crumbling highway to pay exorbitant prices and god forbid if you are caught speeding by preying police. The food is so expensive comparable to airport prices. Never again!

  • Joe

    I totally agree, the turnpike is one of the worst roads I’ve ever driven on these bloodsucking money hungry greedy bastards at the pa turnpike commission should be castrated……..I am so pissed I paid 5 bucks to drive from ohio to cranberry what a joke this road should be shut down