The Massachusetts Turnpike’s new open-road tolling system is expected to go live Oct. 28 and could increase costs for some drivers under a proposed new rate system, state transportation officials said Monday.
Under the new system, 24 toll plazas along the 138-mile highway from Boston to the New York border will be torn down and replaced by 16 gantries that arch over the highway and electronically charge vehicles with E-ZPass transponders without requiring them to stop or slow down.
For those without transponders, the system will take pictures of their license plates and send bills to their vehicles’ registered owners.
The amount of money drivers pay would depend upon where they enter and exit the stretch of Interstate 90 under a toll proposal under consideration. Some trips would cost more, some less.
State officials say it’s not a toll hike because overall toll collections would not significantly change.
“This is a rate-setting process designed to address how we are collecting the same amount of tolls in a different set of locations,” state Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack said. “We were not favoring any region of the state.”
A series of public meetings is scheduled before the new tolling system is voted on.
The proposal also calls for Massachusetts drivers with transponders to pay less than out-of-state drivers with transponders.
The goal of the new tolling system is to reduce congestion, pollution, toll plaza accidents and commute times.
“It’s about public safety, it’s about air quality and it’s about congestion,” state Highway Administrator Tom Tinlin said.
Once the system goes live, the state will start dismantling the toll plazas, which could cause travel delays, officials said. Road work connected to the project is expected to last until the end of 2017.
The change is expected to net the state Department of Transportation about $33 million less in personnel costs.
Some privacy advocates have criticized the system’s hot list feature, which would instantly notify police when certain license plates pass under gantries. But officials say the system will only be used in specific circumstances, including missing-children alerts, and could end up saving lives.
The state already has open-road tolling on the southbound side of the Tobin Bridge.
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