Free-flowing traffic with no reason to slow down at toll plazas should be available to Pennsylvania Turnpike drivers in Western Pennsylvania by 2027.

The turnpike commission approved two contracts last week worth $50 million for Allison Park Contractors Inc. to build 11 overhead gantries between the Ohio border and the Fort Littleton interchange in Fulton County, just east of Bedford. Although exact locations haven’t been finalized, construction on the gantries should begin early next year, and they should be in operation by January 2027.

The agency finished construction on the system in the eastern part of the state — the Northeast Extension and from Reading to New Jersey — earlier this year. It is doing final testing on the system and expects to begin operation there in January.

The system, known as Open Road Tolling, collects fees from motorists when they pass under gantries strategically placed on the highway across the state. The gantry either reads the vehicle’s EZ-Pass transponder and charges a toll or takes a photo of the vehicle’s license plate and mails the owner a bill for the toll plus an additional fee to cover processing charges.

Eventually, the former toll plazas will be eliminated, and entrance and exit ramps from the turnpike will be revised so they are almost the same as any other interstate highway.

The advantage for the motorist is free-flowing traffic where they can pay tolls without stopping, rear-end collisions should drop and air pollution will be reduced because vehicles aren’t sitting in line to pay their tolls.

For the turnpike, all-electronic tolling will reduce the amount of land the agency needs at interchanges. It also will be easier to install new interchanges such as the one under design at Route 130 in Penn Township, Westmoreland County, because it will be a simple on and/or off ramp, not a full toll plaza.

The agency moved up its plan to go cashless by more than a year in June 2020 when it eliminated toll collectors at the start of the pandemic to reduce human interaction and the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

“We’re really excited to get this started,” said turnpike spokeswoman Marissa Orbanek. “The gantries are up in the east, and we should be ready to go at the beginning of the year.

“We know this is going to be a better, safer experience for our customers.”

Open Road Tolling will have 10 gantries on the main line of the turnpike in the eastern part of the state and nine on the Northeast Extension. Eight also are under construction in the central part of the state.

Orbanek noted that many Western Pennsylvania motorists are familiar with the overhead gantries because they have been in use for many EZ-Pass users for several years as a way to avoid lines at toll plazas such as the one near Cranberry or near the Ohio border.

“It’s not like this is something completely new out west,” she said. “It’s been used on the Southern Beltway [the new highway along the Allegheny-Washington County border near Pittsburgh International Airport that opened in October 2020] from the beginning.”

When the full system is open, the agency expects to save about $25 million a year.

Orbanek said most of the construction for the gantries will be done overnight to reduce the impact on traffic as much as possible.

Once the system is open across the state, the turnpike will shift to demolishing the old collection booths. Drivers continued to use those booths at many interchanges because they performed the same function as the gantries, registering EZ-Pass transponders or taking license plate photos for billing, but they required drivers to slow down.

Eliminating those plazas will allow for free-flowing traffic across the turnpike. Orbanek said that work is projected to be finished east of Reading by late 2026 and by late 2028 west of Reading.

Ed Blazina

Ed covers transportation at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at

Ed Blazina

Ed covers transportation at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at