By Chief Correspondent Joe Shortsleeve, WBZ-TV

CHELSEA (CBS) –  The State of Massachusetts is shutting off hundreds of transponders that let some vehicles go through the tolls for free.

Local authorities will now have to pay the toll and then prove that they were on the job to get their money back.

Chelsea Police travel over the Tobin Bridge hundreds of times each year. Up until now they never had to pay the toll. Now they will have to pay and the police will get a bill from EZ Pass. In order for the city to get its money back, the police will have to prove they were on official business.

Brian Kyes, the Police Chief in Chelsea, said it doesn’t make sense that the state would charge marked police vehicles for going over the Tobin Bridge.

Today, a marked police vehicle without a transponder can stop at a manned toll, sign a piece of paper, and then proceed through for free. However, with high speed tollingjust months away on the Tobin Bridge, even marked vehicles will be charged a toll because there will be no more toll booths.

In recent months, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation received criticism for the number of transponders out there which allow for free travel on toll roads. This move is seen as creating greater accountability. MassDOT says since the first of the month, they have shut down 425 non-revenue transponders in cities and towns statewide. They represent more than $320,000 in free travel each year.

“We want to phase out these non-revenue transponders and make people accountable for all vehicles and all transponder use,” said Frank DePaola, the MassDOT Highway Commissioner.

Chelsea Police have 25 non-revenue transponders.

Kyes said it is up to Chelsea police to prove they are on official business.

“If it is something in terms of transparency in government, and the onus is on us to have these records available, I don’t have a problem with it,” Kyes said.

The real problem is that non-revenue transponders could potentially be moved to a personal vehicle. This new statewide policy makes that less likely.

“What we are looking to do is to eliminate is the possibility of abuse. We want to make sure [cities and towns] verify that the use of those transponders are truly on official business,” DePaola said.

The change is effective immediately. The bills go out at the end of the month.


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