New Turnpike tolls are coming

All-electronic tolling launches on the Massachusetts Turnpike in October. Are you ready?

The folks at Masslive are all over this story. They’ve created a catalogue of stories on the new system and we can give you the highlights.

How does it work? The 32 toll plazas at the entrances and exits of the Turnpike will be taken down and replaced by 16 gantries spanning the highway at various intervals. Riders with transponders will see no difference, although they won’t need to slow down as they go under the gantries. For those without transponders, the gantries will take a picture of their license plate and mail them a bill.

How much will the tolls cost? A consultant is working up toll rates that are expected to be unveiled next month, but an end-to-end run on the Turnpike is expected to cost about the same. Individual costs may vary depending on where you get on and off relative to where the gantries are located. Parts of the Turnpike near Worcester and Springfield have stretches where no toll will be collected so you can get on and off without paying anything.

Will the gantries save the state money? Probably not, at least initially. Toll collectors won’t be needed any more, but the demolition of the existing toll booths is expected to cost $150 million. Another big unknown is uncollected tolls from drivers without transponders. From July 2014 to early 2016, $1.6 million went uncollected from drivers going over the Tobin Bridge, which has all electronic tolling.

So what’s the advantage? The gantries should speed up driving times on the Turnpike and reduce noise and pollution as waiting time is eliminated at toll booths. The new gantries are also a great way to test a system that could be added relatively easily to other roads.

Do the gantries gather other information? They track how fast vehicles are going, but state officials say that information won’t be used to ticket speeders.Sensors in the ground work in tandem with the gantries to gauge the speed of vehicles so a picture of a car’s license plate can be taken at exactly the right time.

What happens to the old tollbooths? Most will be scrapped, but Maine is interested in buying some parts for backup with its toll system.



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