BOSTON (CBS) — On Friday, October 28, the Massachusetts Turnpike will switch to an all-electronic tolling (AET) system–and the old toll booths will be demolished as part of a months-long process.
On Monday, MassDOT Highway Administrator Tom Tinlin told Mass Pike commuters that “the world as you know it is going to look a lot different” during the demolition process. Here’s what you should know going into the weekend.
Traffic At The Tolls
- The last cash payments at Mass Pike tolls will be collected at 9:45 p.m. on Friday, October 28. The electronic tolling system will go live fifteen minutes later, at 10 p.m.
- Starting Friday night, traffic is expected to slow at the 16 toll gantries and 23 work zones that are part of the switch.
- MassDOT said drivers may expect “short-term inconvenience” during the demolition of the old toll booths. MassDOT has offered several tips for drivers to help deal with the inconvenience during the switch, including:
- Slowing down in active construction areas
- Paying attention to electronic messaging boards
- Considering travelling during off-peak hours
- Allowing for extra time to reach your destination
- Demonstrating common courtesy when merging and changing lanes
- Minimizing distractions (like cell phone use)
- Considering taking the train or other public transit
- Phase 1, which begins Friday night, will divert traffic to the outer lanes of the pike while the toll booths in the center are removed. The actual demolition of the old toll booths will start Sunday evening.
- Phase 2, which will begin November 22, will divert traffic to the center lanes while the outer toll booths are removed. This phase is expected to be finished by the end of 2017.
- During the first phase, extra State Troopers will be deployed on the Pike in around-the-clock shifts–up to 200 Troopers per day and as many as 100 per shift.
- MassDOT released a video Tuesday showing how traffic will be diverted during these phases, as well as what the final configuration of the tolls will look like:
How To Pay
- Under the new system, there are three ways of paying:
- Using an E-ZPass Massachusetts transponder. Drivers who use these state transponders will get a discounted toll. They are available for free via mass.gov/ezpassma.com.
- Using an out-of-state transponder. Drivers with out-of-state transponders will pay a higher rate, but are eligible for Massachusetts transponders.
- Pay-by-plate payment. If a driver doesn’t have a transponder for the new electronic toll gantries to scan, a photo of their license plate will be taken and they will be billed via an orange envelope in the mail.
- Depending on where drivers enter and exit the Pike, the cost of tolling could go up or down for them.
- You can check the cost of your drive with this MassDOT toll calculator.
Getting An E-ZPass Transponder
- From 10 p.m. Friday to 7 a.m. Tuesday, according to MassDOT, you won’t be able to sign up for a new E-ZPass MA account and transponder or pay invoices and toll violations online. If you need to open an account or pay a pay-by-plate toll, you can visit several walk-in locations that will be opened in East Boston, Natick, Auburn, Lee, Ludlow, Saugus, Charlton, and Framingham. To find out the hours and locations of those offices, click here.
- You can also sign up for transponders at RMV and Massachusetts AAA locations.
- Transponders received from those walk-in locations won’t be activated immediately–it may take up to five days.
- Before the last cash tolls are taken, around 6:45 p.m. Friday, the existing customer service call line for E-ZPass Massachusetts will go off-line until Tuesday, Nov. 1. MassDOT has said this is necessary to switch to the new EZDriveMA system.
- Some customers say they have already faced frustration in trying to get a free transponder–both online and in person. Lines at some service centers were out the doors this week.
Many motorists complained that they couldn’t even get new transponders or update their current ones online. One man, retired computer programmer Richard O’Connell, told WBZ-TV he’s been trying to get his transponder for weeks:
“An error occurred when processing your application. It says, ‘close the current browser and try again.’ I did this five times both in Internet Explorer and in Google Chrome,” he said. “Called both of these numbers, they both refer me to another phone number to call, and all you get is an answering machine saying, ‘please call these numbers.’”
Grace Period Announced
But there is some good news. MassDOT has announced a “grace period” if you haven’t gotten a transponder yet. If you get it within 6 months, any toll charges you incur during that time can be charged to your E-ZPass account.
For more information, visit the MassDOT website.