The Massachusetts Turnpike is in uncharted water as EZ Pass has replaced cash along the state’s turnpike system and many toll collectors have been laid off.
In a world where many systems have gone electronic from payment for movies to parking, it was only a matter of time before the personless, electronic system eventually took over toll roads, as well. Along the Massachusetts Turnpike, it happened this weekend with toll collectors working their last shifts and the state moving quickly to tear down the booths where collections happened for decades.
According to the Boston Globe, the new cashless collections system began on Friday at 10 p.m. and will now be the permanent vehicle for toll collection — and yes, the pun was intentional.
“With the first day of all-electronic tolling seeming to have gone smoothly, officials are holding their breath for the real traffic test come Monday morning.
“‘It seems as though people have been listening to us [today],’ said Department of Transportation highway administrator Thomas Tinlin, who spent much of Saturday traveling Route 90 to observe the all-electronic transition. ‘They’re giving us a lot of room on the road, not traveling on the Turnpike as much, giving us plenty of space to do our jobs.’
“Monday’s commute, however, may not be so easy.
“Tinlin suggested altering work schedules Monday to avoid commuting during rush hour and using public transportation if at all possible.”
The local ABC affiliate in Boston, WCVB 5, reports that as soon as the toll booths were cleared of workers and equipment, contractors began destroying the decades-old facilities on Route 90 into Boston.
With all the traffic moving through, state police are monitoring traffic around the former toll booths and making sure that there are no incidents, with people either stopping to pay or driving too fast through the areas that are now construction zones.
Channel 5 reports that disruptions in traffic are expected through at least November 22, though it could last longer depending on several factors.
So if you do not have EZ Pass (like me), how do you pay for tolls on a cashless toll road? Channel 5 says everything will be automated.
“Motorists must now pay Mass Pike tolls by having their license plate photographed and a bill sent in the mail or by having a prepaid E-ZPass account and a windshield transponder,” the station reported.
Several states along the northeast corridor of the United States use EZ Pass to charge tolls on interstates, tunnels, bridges, and elsewhere. In several of the states, so-called transit stores sell the transponders that affix to your windshield and communicate with the electronic toll collection systems when your car drives under it. Several turnpikes in Texas have been using the picture and bill method for years, with other states now expanding their cashless tolling resources. Virginia, for instance, uses so-called express lanes that are cashless but charge EZ Pass-equipped vehicles for using the lanes with higher charges during peak periods. Non-EZ Pass vehicles are prohibited from using the lanes, which exist primarily in the Washington suburbs of northern Virginia.
With the Massachusetts Turnpike moving to EZ Pass, many toll booth workers were bidding a fond farewell to their regular commuters on Friday, according to the Boston Globe.
“This is our home away from home,” Michael Catalano told the Globe, which reported toll both collectors could earn as much as $80,000 in annual salary after overtime was included.
“At the Allston-Brighton plaza, three shifts of workers shuttled in and out of a dingy break room in their trailer, a temporary office that has been in place for nearly 15 years. Many lingered near the front office, not wanting to leave just yet.
“On doors and the refrigerator, hastily made signs directed workers to farewell parties, called ‘End of Tolls.’ The afternoon crowd would gather at Regina’s Pizzeria, the later shifts at a bar.”
[Featured Image by Mark Wilson/Getty Images]