How Toll Passes & Prepaid Toll Programs Like EZ Pass & SunPass Save Time & Money When You’re Driving On Toll Roads


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You never know when a toll road is going to be the most efficient way to your destination.

I rely on toll passes to save time and money when I’m taking road trips.

There’s more than 5,000 miles of toll roads in the United States, and I’ve driven on many of them.

Some toll roads cost an arm and a leg to travel on (a nationwide average of more than 17 cents per mile), but let’s face it — they can save so much time and even gas money getting from Point A to Point B.

 

Why I Like Using Toll Passes

I’m on highways pretty often because I like taking long road trips.

And while I do carry small amounts of paper money and coins in case I encounter cash-only toll roads, I prefer using electronic toll passes to pay for tolls.

Toll passes are really easy to buy, even easier to use, and perfect for those who travel on highways and byways in places where there are toll roads.

I live in Florida and often drive through the Mid-Atlantic and New England, so I use my SunPass in my home state for everyday travel and glide through toll plazas and toll gantries along the upper East Coast using my trusty E-ZPass.

By the way, let me holler a hearty shout-out for the E-ZPass.

I don’t currently live in an E-ZPass state, but it’s definitely the best prepaid toll pass program I’ve ever used. I can drive through several different states in the Northeast and parts of the Midwest using the same electronic toll collection program.

E-ZPass touts itself as the “largest, most successful toll interoperability network in the world.”

Agreed! I can travel just about anywhere on the East Coast and cross state lines without worrying about toll delays. I love passing right through those toll plazas and toll gantries without waiting in line or fumbling for dimes and quarters.

Using toll passes surely beats having to sit in line and wait to fork over a wad of cash or handful of change to a toll worker. (Though I must admit, I kinda liked getting to chit chat with the toll collectors for a few fleeting seconds as I pulled through the plazas when I paid with cash!)

With my toll passes, I don’t need to fret about having exact change anymore — I just drive on through the toll plaza or under the toll gantry without tossing a single quarter out my window. Easy peasy…

 

How Toll Roads Save Time & Money

Consider the scenic Pennsylvania Turnpike

The Pennsylvania Turnpike travels the length of the state from the Ohio state line in the west to the Delaware River in the east.

The main corridor of the Pennsylvania Turnpike is some 360 miles long — or about 30 miles longer than taking a trek across the Keystone State on the nearby Lincoln Highway/Route 30.

In 2016, it cost $42.30 in cash to drive a typical 2-axle passenger vehicle the length of the main turnpike corridor. (There are some shorter sections and spurs that are tolled differently.) EZ Pass users, meanwhile, paid only $30.32 to travel the same distance.

So, why fork over more than $40 to drive along the Pennsylvania Turnpike when the Route 30/Lincoln Highway corridor — which parallels the tolled turnpike — is shorter, and free to drive on?

Having traveled on both highways, I know the turnpike has much higher speed limits (up to 70 mph) and no traffic signals or stop-and-go situations in normal traffic conditions.

Meanwhile, Route 30 has speed limits ranging from 20 to 55 mph, several traffic signals, stop signs and pedestrian crosswalks, and other obstructions that can waste time, gas, and money.

Of course, the Lincoln Highway/Route 30 provides a beautiful drive through Pennsylvania’s mountains, countryside, and small towns — and it’s an historic roadway to boot! But if you’re in a hurry to get from one place to another in Pennsylvania, the turnpike may be the best way to get where you’re going.

 

A List Of Prepaid Toll Passes For Each State

So, let’s say you’re taking a road trip and want to use a toll pass. Which transponder or toll pass program do you use and where can you use it?

In many cases, states that offer electronic toll programs can also scan your license plate and they’ll simply send you a bill for driving on any of the toll roads you used. However, opting for the license plate billing method can be much more expensive than paying cash or using a prepaid toll program — because in most situations you’ll be hit with costly “administrative” fees. Oye veh. So that’s one reason I buy a toll transponder.

Luckily, some localized or regional toll passes are linked to prepaid toll programs in other states, and state governments across the country are improving these networks for your convenience. Even the federal government is working on the situation. But until more states work out the bugs on these interlinked prepaid toll programs, I still recommend you buy the toll pass specifically designed for the state(s) you’re driving in to avoid fees, fines, or other problems.

Here’s a list of each state’s prepaid toll program:

  • AlabamaAlabama Freedom Pass
  • Alaska – No Government Toll Roads*
  • Arizona – No Government Toll Roads*
  • Arkansas – No Government Toll Roads*
  • CaliforniaFasTrak
  • ColoradoExpressToll
  • Connecticut – No Government Toll Roads* (read the tragic reason why here)
  • Delaware – E-ZPass (see link above)
  • Florida – SunPass (see link above)
  • GeorgiaPeach Pass or SunPass
  • Hawaii – No Government Toll Roads*
  • Idaho – No  Government Toll Roads*
  • IllinoisI-Pass or E-ZPass
  • Indiana – E-ZPass
  • Iowa – No Government Toll Roads*
  • KansasK-Tag or PIKEPASS
  • Kentucky – E-ZPass (beginning in late 2016)
  • LouisianaGeauxPass
  • Maine – E-ZPass
  • Maryland – E-ZPass
  • Massachusetts – E-ZPass
  • Michigan – No Government Toll Roads*
  • MinnesotaMnPass
  • Mississippi – No Government Toll Roads*
  • Missouri – No Government Toll Roads*
  • Montana – No Government Toll Roads*
  • Nebraska – No Government Toll Roads*
  • Nevada – No Government Toll Roads*
  • New Hampshire – E-ZPass
  • New Jersey – E-ZPass
  • New Mexico – No Government Toll Roads*
  • New York – E-ZPass
  • North CarolinaNC Quick Pass, E-ZPass, Peach Pass, or SunPass
  • North Dakota – No Government Toll Roads*
  • Ohio – E-ZPass
  • Oklahoma – K-Tag, PIKEPASS, or TollTag
  • Oregon – No Government Toll Roads*
  • Pennsylvania – E-ZPass
  • Rhode Island – No Government Toll Roads*
  • South CarolinaPAL PASS
  • South Dakota – No Government Toll Roads*
  • Tennessee – No Government Toll Roads*
  • Texas – TxTag, TollTag, or EZ TAG (some Texas roads require at least one of these tags) 
  • UtahCash only
  • Vermont – No Government Toll Roads*
  • Virginia – E-ZPass
  • WashingtonGood To Go!
  • West Virginia – E-ZPass
  • Wisconsin – No Government Toll Roads*
  • Wyoming – No Government Toll Roads*

Here’s a list of all toll roads in the United States.

*Some of the states listed above as having “No Government Toll Roads” do in fact have proposals on the table for the future construction of toll roads. Please double-check before you hit the road to see whether the state(s) with an asterisk have implemented toll roads — better safe than sorry, right?

This may sound obvious to some, but for those who swear by using only debit and credit cards in this era of plastic money, let me remind you — many of the toll states above accept cash and, in several cases, accept only cash at their toll plazas! So, be sure to keep a backup supply of cash and quarters in your car. Exact change and “cash only” means exact change and cash only.

 

Downsides Of Using Automatic Toll Passes

OK, so far I’ve made it sound like toll passes and other types of electronic toll collection are God’s gift to motorists. And, yes, in many ways they are. But they aren’t perfect.

Let’s look at some of the cons of using toll passes:

  • Toll Pass Transponders Don’t Always Work — If your transponder isn’t properly affixed to your car (usually on the inside of your car’s windshield near the rearview mirror), you won’t get to use the toll pass and may be fined. (NOTE: Some transponders don’t work at all on certain windshields.)
  • Your Toll Pass Bank Account Must Be Stocked — The only way your toll transponder will pay for tolls is if the bank account it’s drawing funds from is amply stocked. So be sure you have money in the account or you may be fined.
  • Your Info On Toll Accounts Must Be Up To Date — If your account info isn’t accurate, it could cost you big time. Here’s the story of how one Florida man racked up dozens of toll violations and was arrested for a suspended license due to toll violations — all because of inaccurate personal info on his SunPass account.
  • Toll Passes Put People Out Of Work — What happens to all those friendly toll workers when electronic toll collection programs are set into place? Some of them may be reassigned to other jobs, but many are laid off altogether. Consider what’s happening to these Massachusetts toll workers.

All in all, toll passes are excellent for commuters and road trippers. But you’ll have to use the correct toll pass, know how to use it, and stay up to date with your account to ensure smooth travels.

Despite the few downsides with some electronic toll collection initiatives, I think the benefits of prepaid toll programs far outweigh the negatives — so I’ll keep on using my toll passes. I hope you find them just as useful as I have!

 

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