By Tony Romeo

HARRISBURG, Pa. (CBS) – The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission has announced another round of annual toll hikes that will take effect early next year. And once again, cash customers will feel the bigger pinch.

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Starting January 5th, tolls on the Pennsylvania Turnpike will rise an average of 2 percent for E-ZPass customers and 12 percent for cash customers. And since tolls for cash customers have been rising faster than E-ZPass tolls for several years now, turnpike spokesman Bill Capone says come January, the cumulative differential for cash customers will be pretty steep.

“I’d say 35 percent would be the lowest differential. It could in some instances actually be more than 35 – as much as 39 percent, depending on your trip.”

So come January, the cost of a typical short commuter trip – such as Willow Grove to Bensalem in the east and Irwin to Pittsburgh in the west – will go from $1.02 to $1.04 for E-ZPass customers, while cash customers currently paying $1.40 for the same trip will pay $1.60.

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Capone says the idea is drive more motorists to the E-ZPass camp, which is more cost-effective.

“It varies – it depends on the numbers you use. But clearly, it’s four to five — at least if not more – times more expensive to collect a cash toll.”

The strategy appears to be working, as E-ZPass is now used by 70 percent of all customers on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

The Turnpike Commission, meanwhile, has announced that the Camiel Service Plaza westbound in Chester County has been temporarily closed after what appears to be a form of mold was detected in the building. Temporary restrooms were being set up and the Sunoco station on the site remains open.

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