Wednesday, April 23, 2014
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Officials seek end to manual tolls

Plans for implementing an all-electronic tolling system on the Massachusetts Turnpike are in effect, eliminating 80 to 90 percent of toll-takers in the state’s turnpike system, state officials said Monday.

Patrick said he was committed to changing the system, an idea that was originally conceived in 2010, according to a video from State House News Service posted on Masslive.com.

“We’ve taken four or five different agencies and collapsed them into one,” Patrick said. “We shut down the turnpike authority. We’ve achieved hundreds of millions of dollars of savings throughout transportation.”

The cost of the installation and implementation of all-electronic tolling will be paid for after three years of use of the system, he said.

“If we don’t do it [establish the electronic system] we will probably have to spend almost that much or more in capital improvements in the toll booths, so it’s a good investment,” Patrick said.

Patrick said the impact on toll-takers who would no longer have jobs with the electronic system played a major role in the process of creating the plan, although the plan is not all just about the toll-takers.

“It’s about having as modern and efficient a transportation system as possible,” he said. “We will make as dignified and soft a landing for those people [toll-takers] as possible.”

Richard Davey, secretary of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, said in the video that of the 410 full-time or part-time toll-takers employed in the current turnpike system, between 80 and 90 percent might be cut.

“The toll-collectors have done nothing wrong,” Davey said. “Technology has caught up with them.”

Patrick said more information on the timetable and plan to remove toll employees will be made available in about three weeks.

Davey said the project, which will cost about $100 million, would not use federal funding, and toll revenue will pay for the costs of implementation.

“We can only use toll revenue for the toll roads,” he said. “It’s not as if we can take toll money and give it to cities and towns for example … But it pays for itself over time and then, frankly, our balance sheet significantly improves.”

Davey said MassDot spends between $45 and $55 million a year in toll collection costs, but acquires more than $300 million a year in toll fares.

While the creation of toll systems for other interstate routes such as I-93 and Route 3 have not been ruled out, Davey said they are not part of the current plan.

“What we’re looking for is to, primarily, improve what we have today,” Davey said.

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