BOSTON (CBS) – Drivers, circle the date on the calendar: On October 28, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) plans to flip the switch on its all-electronic tolling (AET) system along the Massachusetts Turnpike.
This means commuters will no longer be able to pay cash and toll booths will begin to disappear. The hope is that congestion will eventually ease along the Pike because drivers won’t have to slow down and cram through crowded tolls.READ MORE: Hasty Pudding Theatricals Return With 'HPT 173: Ship Happens' In February
A pilot project of electronic tolling was already unveiled on the Tobin Bridge two years ago.
“This is about public safety. It’s about air quality. And it’s about congestion,” said MassDOT Highway Administrator Thomas Tinlin. “This is a huge day.”
On Monday, state transportation leaders revealed proposed amounts of what drivers could pay as they pass under the new electronic tolling infrastructure. Depending on where commuters enter and exit the Pike, the cost could go up or down.
For instance, the trip from Framingham to downtown Boston would remain the same. However, a drive from Weston to downtown Boston would go down 30 cents, while the commute from West Newton to downtown would increase 70 cents.
MassDOT officials say the entire system would remain “revenue neutral,” meaning the total toll cash generated by electronic tolling would be about the same as the current system.
Right now, a trip from the New York border to Boston costs $6.60; when AET is implemented, it will drop to $6.15.
“Many existing trips go up or down in cost,” Tinlin explained. “Some untolled movements now may be tolled and some currently tolled movements will become untolled.”READ MORE: I-Team: NH And MA Lawmakers Want To Know Why System Didn't Protect Harmony Montgomery
MassDOT is encouraging drivers to obtain a free E-ZPass transponder before the October 28 “go live” date because receiving an invoice in the mail will come with a premium.
For instance, the trip from West Newton to Boston is $1.70 with E-ZPass. If a driver sticks with pay-by-plate, the cost jumps and includes a $0.60 fee per bill.
“They will need to cover the cost it takes us to administer the program. We want to give everyone who chooses to get a transponder a financial incentive,” said MassDOT Secretary Stephanie Pollack.
Drivers with out-of-state transponders will also pay a higher rate, but Pollack said they are eligible for a Massachusetts transponder to get the lowest rate.
The rates won’t be locked in until the MassDOT board members vote in October. Before then, transportation leaders plan to host seven public meetings in September.
Work to demolish the toll booths will begin immediately when the “go live” date arrives. But drivers won’t be traveling highway speeds until later in 2017, when demolition work and road reconstruction is scheduled to be complete.
Whether paying more or less, drivers hope the new system helps relieve congestion on the Pike.
“I’m not opposed to it if that’s the case,” said Newton resident Kebeth Grant. “It is such a problem right now to get in and out of the city.”MORE NEWS: 'We Are Reaching Something Like A Peak': COVID Forecaster Sees Brighter Future