MassDOT aims for toll spike to push Pike drivers toward transponder use

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From State House News Service

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation outlined new toll rates for all-electronic tolling on Bay State roads, greatly increasing the cost for drivers without transponders.

Drivers traveling from New York to Logan Airport without a toll transponder would pay $13.75 under the new, proposed rates, compared to $7.65 for EZPassMA drivers. Officials altered the proposed toll rate schedule from an earlier presentation to reporters in which they outlined rates of $13.40, up from $7.10.

On- and off-ramps to the Mass Pike will start looking very different this fall, and some in the Worcester and Springfield areas will become free.

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On- and off-ramps to the Mass Pike will start looking very different this fall, and some in the Worcester and Springfield areas will become free.

Braintree Mayor Joe Sullivan, a MassDOT board member, wondered whether the state might offer a “grace period” or “amnesty period” before hitting transponder-less drivers with higher costs.

“There’s no punitive surcharge,” said Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack, who said electronic tolling costs more when cars must be identified by license plate and billed through the mail.

Longtime Worcester Commissioner of the Department of Public Works and Parks Robert Moylan, another member of the MassDOT board, advised caution in establishing rates so that officials do not need to return to the subject. “I think we need to be very careful about the rates we’re going to set up,” Moylan said. He said, “I for one would not like to revisit rates a year from now.”

The MassDOT board did not vote to advance the proposed rates Monday, Aug. 22. A vote on the final rates was pegged for Oct. 6.

Overall the state expects toll revenues to slightly decrease, dropping from $128.1 million to $127.7 million on the portion of the Pike from Weston westward, and dropping from $225 million to $216.3 million on what’s called the Metropolitan Highway System – encompassing the eastern part of the Pike, the Tobin Bridge and the harbor tunnels.

“This is not a toll increase. This is a rate-setting process,” Pollack said.

Disputing what she said was an estimated $50 million in cost savings made by the Patrick administration, Pollack said she expects a net savings to the state of about $5 million per year.

People can obtain free transponders through ezpassma.com, by visiting certain Registry of Motor Vehicles branches listed at www.mass.gov/expassma, through AAA locations, and at EZPass customer service centers.

— Andy Metzger

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