Turnpike fees go up today

BEDFORD – When Florida-based truck driver Bruce Vanuskirk drives through Pennsylvania, his dispatcher chimes in over his radio with a clear message to bypass the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

“It’s costing too much. It’s killing trucking companies,” said Vanuskirk of Peninsula Logistics. He’s paid about $200 in cash in the past two days to drive his Class 7 tractor-trailer on the Pennsylvania Turnpike from Ohio.

Some worry trucks will roll through local roads more frequently as turnpike fees increase today by 10 percent for cash customers and 2 percent for E-ZPass customers.

Vanuskirk stopped for lunch at a convenience store near the turnpike’s Bedford interchange on Friday.

“We take whatever side roads we can get,” he said.

With the rate increase, E-ZPass customers who see about a 17 percent savings on tolls will save about 25 percent, on average, compared to cash, the commission states.

A turnpike ticket for a passenger vehicle between Bedford and Murraysville will cost $9.60, but E-ZPass customers will pay $7.45.

Drivers of Class 7 trucks weighing between 62,000 and 80,000 pounds will pay $43.70 for a ticket or $37.13 with E-ZPass between those same two points.

Increased truck traffic on local roads wouldn’t surprise Bedford County Commissioner Paul Crooks. He expects truck traffic on U.S. routes 30 and 220 to increase.

“The trucks aren’t going to be much of an inconvenience for Bedford and Everett because there are alternate routes. Bedford has Route 30 and 220, and there’s 30 in Everett,” he said. “But truck traffic on Route 30 west of Bedford and east of Everett will inconvenience motorists in smaller municipalities.”

The toll increase is needed, a Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission press release stated, to satisfy the turnpike’s obligation to help address a transportation-funding shortfall.

Under Act 44 of 2007, the turnpike continues to make annual contributions of $450 million to PennDOT. Of that, $250 million is used for public-transit agencies and $200 million is used for off-turnpike road and bridge projects, the release stated.

With this latest turnpike increase, rates will have risen 35 percent for E-ZPass customers and 71 percent for cash customers since 2009.

Mirror Staff Writer Russ O’Reilly is at 946-7435. The Associated Press contributed to this article.