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Governor Tom Corbett joined Pennsylvania Turnpike Commissioners on Dec. 11, 2012, to celebrate the opening of a new, All-Electronic Interchange linking State Route 29 with the mainline Turnpike (Interstate 76) in Chester County. They were joined by federal, state and local elected officials and area business executives at a ribbon-cutting ceremony on the site of the new Atwater Drive on-ramp in East Whiteland Township. The link – the first four-way interchange to be constructed on the mainline Turnpike in decades – is solely for use by E-ZPass customers, who make up two thirds of Turnpike users in Southeastern Pennsylvania.
Construction for the $60 million project was begun in March 2011.
“This project shows in concrete, brick and mortar and glass, the connection between transportation and our economy,” said Governor Tom Corbett. “As we make it easier to reach our places of commerce, those places and the jobs they create will grow. Jobs and prosperity, after all, are what these projects are about.”
Located about midway between the Downingtown and Valley Forge interchanges, the Route 29 Interchange is designated as Interchange #320. The 14-mile section of Turnpike between Downingtown and Valley Forge is the heaviest traveled of any four-lane section on the east-west Turnpike mainline, carrying 50,000 vehicles per day, on average.
“The Route 29 Interchange is also about safety, efficiency and convenience — for Turnpike travelers and other regional commuters,” said Pennsylvania Turnpike Commissioner Pat Deon, a Bucks County businessman. “The interchange will shorten commute times to and from the area’s corporate centers, lighten rush-hour volumes at neighboring Turnpike interchanges and reduce congestion on other routes, improving safety and accessibility across the region.”
The Route 29 Interchange will reduce congestion at the Valley Forge Interchange, at the I-76/Route 202 interchange and on Route 202 itself; it will ease traffic on Route 29 near Swedesford Road and Matthews Road and on Route 401 and Phoenixville Pike west of Route 29. It will provide convenient access to and from business parks like the Great Valley Corporate Center, the Commons at Great Valley, the Atwater Corporate Center and commercial and residential areas in Malvern and Paoli.
The Turnpike’s first four-way – or “all-access “ – All-Electronic Interchange, the Route 29 Interchange will permit E-ZPass customers to get on or off I-76 in either direction. Two other AEIs, the Virginia Drive Interchange in Montgomery County (opened in 2000) and the Street Road Interchange in Bucks County (opened in 2010), provide half an interchange — westbound on and off for the former and eastbound on and off for the latter. A fourth AEI is being developed on the Northeastern Extension (I-476) in Carbon County north of the Mahoning Valley Interchange (#74).
“All-Electronic Interchanges are much less expensive to build and operate than cash toll plazas, and they represent the future of toll collection as the Turnpike works to convert to a cashless system in the coming years,” Commissioner Deon said. “Remember, this is an E-ZPass only facility. If the readers in the lane do not detect an E-ZPass signal, then an image of the license plate will be automatically captured, and the commission will mail a violation notice to the registered owner of that vehicle.”
The first violation notice will include the toll from the furthest Turnpike entry point (Warrendale Toll Plaza, Allegheny County), which is $26.55, plus a $25 administrative fee for a total charge of $51.55. If payment is not made, the administrative fee is increased to $40 in the second violation notice, for a total charge of $66.55.
E-ZPass has been available in Pennsylvania for more than 10 years and in some neighboring states for two decades; with more than 22 million E-ZPass tags in circulation among 24 toll agencies across 14 states, E-ZPass is the world’s largest interoperable tolling system.
The Route 29 Interchange, funded by toll revenues without any state or federal tax dollars, was constructed by Allan A. Myers Inc. of Worcester, Pa. The design work for the interchange, initially begun in 2002, was performed by STV Inc. of Douglassville, Pa. The proposal to develop an unmanned connection between the Turnpike and Route 29 was first introduced in 1999.
Pennsylvania Turnpike travelers can get E-ZPass online at www.paturnpike.com, by calling the toll-free number, 1-877-Penn-Pass or at one of more than 100 retail locations statewide, including Acme Markets and Wegmans in Southeastern Pennsylvania. Most of the state’s AAA offices offer E-ZPass sales, and E-ZPass vending machines called Tag Tellers are located inside select Pennsylvania Turnpike travel plazas, including these regional rest stops: Peter J. Camiel Service Plaza (milepost 395 westbound); Valley Forge Service Plaza (milepost 325 eastbound); King of Prussia Service Plaza (milepost 328 westbound); and Allentown Service Plaza (milepost 56 northbound and southbound).