HARTFORD, CT — If you are one of the thousands from Connecticut who travel regularly on the Massachusetts Turnpike you have likely noticed that the Bay State has recently gone to electronic tolling at 23 plazas on Interstate 90.
For the vast majority of commuters, whether you are from Connecticut are not, it simply means that the tolling system will charge your E-ZPass transponder.
But if you are in the minority that doesn’t have E-ZPass, you already have or will soon be getting a regular bill charging you for driving through Massachusetts – and you’ll be getting hit up for an extra charge for not using E-ZPass.
The Massachusetts Department of Transportation has replaced the aging toll booths along the 138-miles of turnpike from Boston to the New York border with a cashless, electronic tolling system.
The system, developed by Raytheon as part of a 10-year, $130 million contract, photographs car and truck license plates with overhead cameras as vehicle pass under gantries over the highway.
It charges drivers with E-ZPass transponders or sends bills to the homes of those who don’t have them.
The electronic system is expected eventually to replace every single toll booth in Massachusetts, according to Bay State transportation officials.
A motorist with an E-ZPass transponder will pay $6.15 to travel the entire length of the turnpike. Someone without a transponder will be charged slightly more, $6.54, which breaks down to 37 cents at each gantry, plus a 60-cent administrative bill for mailing the monthly bill to your house.
Additionally, a $1 late fee will be added to every unpaid Pay By Plate toll after an invoice goes unpaid for 30 days; an additional $1 will be added to each toll transaction after 60 days of non-payment; and another $1 after 90 days of non-payment.
“Since the activation of all electronic tolling, approximately 87 percent of all tolling transaction on weekdays have been E-ZPass customers,’’ said Patrick Marvin, spokesman for the communications office of the Massachusetts DOT.
“Weekends are approximately 81 percent,’’ added Marvin.
Marvin said drivers who do not have an active transponder will be through a “Pay By Plate’’ system. “Pay By Plate invoices will be mailed to the address that appears on the vehicle’s registration,’’ said Marvin, meaning it doesn’t even have to be you driving your car past the camera for you to be charged.
“Pay By Plate customers will receive an invoice within two weeks after their first trip underneath all electronic toll gantries,” said Marvin. “Invoices will then be sent monthly to Pay By Plate customers who continue to travel along I-90.”
The electronic toll system hasn’t been free of controversy in Massachusetts. Civil liberties group protested, stating the system builds upon an already sprawling network of government cameras that capture, store and share data on citizens’ license plates.
Marvin said the MassDOT “encourages all drivers to obtain a free E-ZPass transponder in order to receive a discounted toll rate.”
Transponders are available to residents of any state, and can be obtained free of charge at www.ezpassma.com.
MassDOT officials said the state expects to save more than $45 million a year by eliminating the jobs of 500 toll-takers at the booths.
Connecticut commuters will also soon experience cashless tolling on the other end of state, as well, as beginning in 2017, automatic tolling is scheduled to begin at select bridges and tunnels run by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in New York.
Automatic tolling is scheduled to begin at select bridges in January and be completed on all MTA-operated bridges by the end of 2017, according to New York transportation officials.
The George Washington Bridge, run by The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, is not part of the cashless toll project, but will receive an LED lighting upgrade.