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Turnpike Toll Booths Could Be Replaced With All-Electronic Tolling

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- It's often a long line nightmare at holidays -- and a pain at almost every other time of year -- but those cash-only toll booths on the Pennsylvania Turnpike could soon be history.

"Our interchanges will begin to look a lot like what you see on I-79," the Turnpike's new CEO, Mark Compton, told the Airport Corridor Transportation Association on Thursday.

Compton said that by 2018 all toll booths could be replaced by cashless all-electronic tolling -- with a pilot starting shortly on the Southern Expressway's connector between the airport and Route 22/30 and I-79, the so-called Findlay Connector.

"One of the pilots for all-electronic tolling is going to be on the Findlay Connector and then wrap into this new construction when it comes operational in 2019," Compton said.

Compton told KDKA money editor Jon Delano that the Turnpike prefers that everyone gets an EZ-Pass -- now at about 75 percent of users.

"[But] for those who don't, there will be what we call video tolling, which is basically a camera on each of our gantries," said Compton. "The gantries are set up to be high speed so you'll be on the main line and you'll roll through the gantries. And then the camera will take a picture of the license plate, and the owner of the vehicle will be sent the toll."

A bill -- that will be at least a third higher than EZ-Pass will be mailed to you -- but that may not last long either. Compton says he's exploring a smartphone app that you could hold up to the windshield that could work like an EZ-Pass.

"It's with great partners like Carnegie Mellon that all these things become, that we really go to start thinking through," he said.

One downside in this region -- the loss of Turnpike jobs at the toll booths.

"It's safe to say roughly about 150 employees could be affected," Compton said.

Compton says this will save $60 million a year -- and permit more interchanges along the Turnpike.

As for tollbooth workers, he wants to relocate them to other Turnpike jobs.

But local Teamsters principal officer Gary Pedicone, who represents tollbooth workers, says some drivers prefer having a real person to talk to, and the state cannot afford the loss of these jobs.

All electronic tolling still requires legislative approval.

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