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Pennsylvania Turnpike Has $43 Million in Unpaid Tolls

LUZERNE COUNTY — Newswatch 16 requested documents from the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, showing the turnpike had about $43 million in unpaid toll vio...
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LUZERNE COUNTY — Newswatch 16 requested documents from the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, showing the turnpike had about $43 million in unpaid toll violations in the last 12 months, mostly from drivers traveling right through the E-ZPass lane.

Last year, a Newswatch 16 investigation discovered a trend that showed the amount of money from unpaid toll violations to toll cheats tripled from about $11 million in 2010 to nearly $33 million last year.

“Well, the unpaid toll violations is going to escalate from year to year, number one, because we have more customers using our system ever year. And number two, because of the fact our tolls go up annually every year,” said Carl Defebo, of the Turnpike Commission. He added that a lot the violators who are caught through license plate pictures do end up paying with they owe, and that the turnpike had to write off just $3.7 million last year.

But Defebo also points out habitual toll cheats are to blame for the biggest offenses.

“If somebody is a frequent violator then there should be consequences,” said Rep. Mike Carroll of Luzerne County. He co-sponsored a bill in Harrisburg that aims to stop those frequent toll violators.

The bill would allow PennDOT to suspend the registration of a driver who failed to pay six or more payments or has unpaid of at least $500.

“It’s an effort to try and capture the revenue that’s lost from people who don’t pay the E-ZPass,” Carroll said.

After our investigation aired last year, the auditor general promised to take a look at why the turnpike is losing so much money. That audit is expected to be released this fall.