BOSTON (CBS) — Despite warnings from officials last week that the switch to all-electronic tolling on the Mass. Pike would cause inconvenience and traffic congestion for drivers, the first Monday morning rush hour during the project went off without a hitch–and demolition of the old tolls was moving ahead of schedule.
“This morning went really well,” said MassDOT Highway Administrator Thomas Tinlin at a press conference later Monday morning. “I do believe that the credit goes to months of planning, coordination, and execution. But the real credit goes to the travelling public.”READ MORE: Police Searching Woods In Abington For Missing 5-Year-Old Elijah Lewis
MassDOT officials said they actually saw a decrease in traffic of between 6 and 10 percent during the morning commute.
The public was pleased with traffic, but drivers without EZ Pass were still struggling to get their hands on a transponder Monday afternoon. MassDOT’s computer system was down until Monday evening to transfer driver information into the new electronic system, but that means all transactions at the business offices are on hold.
Driver Anthony Fisher said he isn’t able to add his handicap accessible van to his EZ Pass account to take his dad to the hospital.
“If you don’t have your system up and running, then you should give people a free pass for the day,” Fisher said.
Jennifer Gjika tried to settle her bill for transponder violations on Monday in order to renew her registration, but she was turned away. Officials told her to come back on Tuesday, which is after her registration expires.
Despite the troubles, though, state officials say the bumpy road now will lead to a smoother one later.
Tinlin thanked drivers for heeding warnings from officials on Monday, and asked them to keep doing whatever they did to lessen traffic congestion–because, he said, complacency would risk bringing the traffic congestion officials had warned about.
Watch: MassDOT Press Conference
“They don’t give trophies out after the first game,” Tinlin said. “This is the first step of a much larger journey that we’re all going down together.”
Tinlin reminded the public to stay off their cell phones and pay attention, and State Police asked drivers to keep to the 15 mph speed limit in the construction zones at the former toll plaza locations now undergoing demolition.
Tinlin said that, of the 155 toll booths at the 23 toll plazas along the Mass. Pike, 76 had been demolished by 8 a.m. Monday.READ MORE: 'Plan For Alternatives': Toys May Be In Short Supply This Holiday Season
“We continue to trend ahead of schedule, but again, it’s only as good as the cooperation we get,” he said.
Many drivers heeded officials’ advice and left early Monday morning, and many were rolling if not coasting through what would normally have been a slowdown of its own.
“There’s no stops at toll booths anymore, so it does help,” said commuter Natasha Ferrington.
WBZ-TV’s Nicole Jacobs reports
WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Ben Parker reported that there were no problems at any of the former toll plazas currently being demolished Monday morning.
MassDOT Director of Statewide Tolling Steve Collins said that, since the electronic gantries went live Friday night, 2.8 million transactions were made–and close to 80 percent of those were E-ZPass transactions.
In addition, he said 2,000 free Massachusetts E-ZPass transponders were given out at service centers across the state on Saturday, and 1,600 were given out on Sunday. MassDOT was rapidly approaching 3 million E-ZPass transponders in circulation in the state.
He said the EZDriveMA customer service system was on schedule to go live again at 7 a.m. Tuesday, allowing customers to log on and create E-ZPass accounts, pay balances, and sign up for alerts that notify you of a low balance.
Tinlin reminded drivers that the rate of progress could always change.
“If people go back to their regular method of travel, tomorrow could be much different from today,” he said. “Do exactly what you did today.”
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