Truck traffic on the western end of the Pennsylvania Turnpike has declined sharply since tolls began increasing annually four years ago, per a news report in the Tribune-Register. With the most recent increase —  which went into effect last Sunday — tolls have jumped 35% for E-ZPass customers and 71% for cash customers since 2009-- and some fear the most recent hike will drive even more trucks onto local roads to avoid the tolls.

As of Sunday, drivers operating Class 7 trucks will pay nearly $145 to go between the Warrendale toll plaza in Allegheny County and the Delaware River Bridge in Bucks County, compared with $107 in 2008. Those paying cash will have to cough up almost $184.

Average daily truck traffic dropped between the Ohio state line and the Donegal interchange in Westmoreland County in a range from 3.4% to 14% since 2008, varying by section, according to the latest turnpike data that measures traffic between interchanges.

The biggest decline in truck traffic occurred between the New Stanton and Donegal interchanges. In 2008, before the run of annual toll increases began, an estimated 11,622 trucks a day — or 33% of all traffic — used the 16-mile stretch. In 2011, the most recent year for which data are available, 10,000 trucks a day used that stretch, representing 29% of all traffic. The decrease in overall traffic, including cars, was not nearly as steep.

"A number of our members said they would use alternate routes, like I-80, to get to the Northeast" upon a 25% toll hike in 2009,” Jim Runk, executive director of the Pennsylvania Motor Truck Assn., said. "For some, it was probably worth it. For others, it wasn't. For companies down in Pittsburgh, it takes a lot of fuel and time to go up to (Interstate) 80 just to avoid tolls, and I doubt seriously that the long-haul guys would use Route 30 all the way across the state," he said, citing the route's many hills, long two-lane stretches and spots of congestion and traffic signals.

"Pitt Ohio handles sensitive shipments with stringent on-time delivery requirements. As a result, we continue to use the Pennsylvania Turnpike to transport shipments despite the steep increase in toll rates," noted Geoff Muessig, executive vice president of the motor carrier and supply-chain solutions provider.