Why you might be paying more for toll road travel and not even know it | Monday Morning Coffee

June 10, 2019 7:09 am

Good Monday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

If you’re a regular Capital-Star reader, then you’ve no doubt already seen the extensive reporting and opinion journalism we’ve featured explaining how the transportation funding could be Pennsylvania’s next big public policy debate.

And if you’re upset about having to cough up even more of your hard-earned for rising tolls on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, then hold onto your hats for this one. In some states, how much you pay could depend on where you bought your E-ZPass transponder, as our friends at report.

Planning a jaunt to the Cape this summer? Then you’re going to pay almost $2 more for the trip if you didn’t buy your transponder from the Bay State’s tolling agency, Stateline reports.

As Stateline notes, driving from the westernmost end of the Mass Pike to the Interstate 495 interchange toward northern New England using a Massachusetts transponder costs $3.50, but with a transponder purchased elsewhere, it’s $4.05.

To travel the full length of the turnpike with an in-state pass costs $7.45, but with a pass from out of state, it’s $9.35, Stateline reported.


Graphic via

In Connecticut, a proposal by Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont to institute all-electronic tolling like most New England states is headed for a special legislative session, Stateline noted, citing reporting by the Hartford Courant.

Lower prices for in-state transponders are “an incentive to buy a transponder in a certain state,” David Elder, a transportation planner at the Connecticut Department of Transportation, told Stateline.

It’s also a “way to make tolling more palatable for elected officials. They can say residents and commuters aren’t going to pay as much as someone from out of state using our facility,” he said.

Image via

But wait … there’s more.

Citing data compiled by the AAAStateline reports that at least eight northeastern states — Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and West Virginia — have a two-tiered system at least some of the time, for example, during rush hour.

But, Delaware, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Virginia do not, Stateline reported.

Local tolling agencies, such as the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission, which includes Pennsylvania, also have signed on to discounts for residents.

According to Stateline, “drivers who take the Scudder Falls Bridge from the Trenton, New Jersey, area into Pennsylvania will be charged a toll beginning around July 10, the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission announced. E-ZPass is accepted, and drivers who go into Pennsylvania frequently, and who get the New Jersey version of the pass will get a 40 percent discount.”

Pennsylvania drivers take note.

Renu Zaretsky, of the Tax Policy Center who wrote a column on the differences in toll pass charges, said her family lives in Michigan but bought an E-ZPass in Ohio for a vacation along the Eastern Seaboard, Stateline reported.

“It’s a game you can play, if you are a resident or a nonresident,” she told Stateline in a phone interview. “It’s such a small amount of difference, however, I wonder if people don’t notice it unless they are heavy, heavy drivers. It might be fairer if everybody was charged the same,” she said. “With infrastructure, everybody is going to have to pay more eventually, we just don’t know when.”

Our Stuff.
Yeah, yeah, we know. Gov. Tom Wolf’s $4.5 billion Restore PA plan isn’t going to be a part of budget deliberations this month. But with 20 days to go before the deadline, and with weird things known to happen in that window, Sarah Anne Hughes has everything you need to know. Y’know … just in case.

And Stephen Caruso deftly explains why some progressives are having a hard time getting behind the plan’s dependence on natural gas drilling.

On our Commentary Page, Dick Polman returns to examine why President Donald Trump is still so hung up on the late John McCain and what the president’s Naval gazing on the ship that bears the Arizonan’s name may portend for the future of the Republic.

And David Lapp of the education reform group Research for Action says Pennsylvania needs a new costing-out study for public education.

As another budget season grinds into gear, Philadelphia just has to hope for the bestThe Daily News’ John Baer opines.
With a fight over the minimum wage looming, PennLive asks whether lawmakers and the Wolf administration will get a spending plan passed before the fiscal year ends on June 30.
Pittsburgh’s Pride March was the largest in its historyThe Post-Gazette reports.
Thanks to strong tax collections, this year’s budget debate will be easier than most, the Associated Press reports (via The Morning Call).

Here’s your #Harrisburg Instagram of the Day:

The Catholic Church dropped a bundle on lobbying as the debate over whether to extend the statute of limitations was in its fullest fury, WHYY-FM reports.
Cyber-Charter schools are ‘wildly ineffective,’ Keystone Crossroads reports, looking at a recent Stanford University study of public education in Pennsylvania.
The PA Post looks at the reasons why people most often turn to medical marijuana and finds that PTSD and chronic pain are among them.
PoliticsPA has last week’s winners and losers in state politics.
Latino leaders are ‘sounding the alarm’ over President Trump’s possible re-election in 2020, Politico reports.
Roll Call explains how the fight over abortion access, particularly the Hyde Amendmentwill play into the budget debate on Capitol Hill this year.

What Goes On.
The House and Senate both gavel in at 1 p.m. for the start of the new session week.
Meanwhile …
9:30 a.m., 60 EW: Rep. Jake Wheatley, D-Allegheny, holds a panel discussion on recreational marijuana legalization. No word if he intends to hold panel discussions in 67 different rooms in the Capitol in 98 days … y’know … just because EVERYONE is doing that now.
10 a.m.., Media Center: Sen. Camera Bartolotta, R-Washington, and House Minority Whip Jordan Harris, D-Philadelphia, roll out another criminal justice reform initiative aimed at getting people back into the workforce.
10 a.m., 418 Main Capitol: House and Senate Democratic Policy committees hold a joint hearing on Gov. Tom Wolf’s Restore PA plan.
10:30 a.m., Main Rotunda: Rep. Margo Davidson and others on ending sexual harassment in the workplace.
11 a.m., Main Rotunda: Rally for Karen’s Law.
11:30 a.m., 302 Irvis: The Mental Health Caucus meets with firefighters to talk about worker’s compensation claims for stress injuries.
12 p.m., Main Rotunda: Sens. Katie Muth, Maria Collette, Larry Farnese & Jay Costa, also Reps. Melissa  Shusterman, Elizabeth Fiedler, and Movita Johnson-Harrell, will be joined by State Victim Advocate Jennifer Storm to also discuss ending workplace harassment.WolfWatch.
Gov. Tom Wolf 
is in Philadelphia this morning for an 8:30 a.m. appearance before the Edison Electric Institute Convention at the Philadelphia Marriott.

What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition).
9 a.m.: 
Breakfast for Rep. Lynda Schlegel Culver
9 a.m.: Breakfast for Rep. Rosemary Brown
11:30 a.m.: Luncheon for Rep. Dan Frankel
5:30 p.m.: Reception for Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell
5:30 p.m.: Reception for Rep. Aaron Bernstine
5:30 p.m.: Senate Republican Campaign Committee ‘Hoopla’
Ride the circuit, give at the max, and the only hoopla in which you’ll find yourself knee-deep will be the sacks of cash it’ll take to underwrite the combined total of $9,000 you’re going to part with today. For that kind of coin, at minimum, Marconi should be there playing the Mamba.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Best wishes go out this morning to longtime Friend O’the BlogMelissa Walters, of Pittsburgh, who celebrates today. Belated best wishes go out to Michael Manzo, of Triad Strategies, who celebrated on Sunday. Congratulations all around.

Heavy Rotation.
Here’s some new music from Summer Camp we stumbled across just recently. It’s ‘Love of My Life.’

Monday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link.
stayed alive Sunday to force a Game 7 in their Stanley Cup final against St. Louis. The Bruins won
 as Tuukka Rask made 28 saves on the way to the win.

And now you’re up to date. 

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.