Thruway Authority proposes all-electronic toll

The New York State Thruway Authority is girding for the great leap forward: all-electronic tolling. The authority pioneered E-ZPass in the metropolitan region 20 years ago, now it wants to eliminate toll booths from Yonkers to Harriman and parlay the technology into non-stop travel over the Thruway’s busiest 45 miles, including the Tappan Zee Bridge.

 

Tom Madison, the Thruway Authority’s executive director, said “All-electronic toll collection is an issue that’s been around for a long time, but the new bridge is the reason we’re looking to do it now”.

An aid to bridge construction

The authority gave the option for three companies that competed to design and build the new TZB to request a temporary switch to all-electronic tolling, or AET, if it would reduce costs, construction timelines and traffic disruptions. And Tappan Zee Constructors, the company that won the $3.1 billion contract, has exercised that option.

As a result, Madison said when the first span of the new bridge opens and traffic moves to it from the old bridge, the toll booths in Tarrytown will be replaced with AET equipment in 2016.

The equipment — perhaps a gantry similar to the one used for highway speed E-ZPass at the Woodbury Toll Plaza, will not only process tolls for vehicles with E-ZPass, but also photograph the license plates of vehicles without it, which is a first step in sending bills to their owners.

Then the authority will have two years to decide whether to make this temporary change permanent and whether to extend it to the Yonkers and Harriman toll plazas until the old bridge is demolished and the second span opens.

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“It doesn’t make sense for Tappan Zee Constructors to tear down the toll booths and build temporary replacements and then tear them down and build permanent ones,” said Madison. “So I don’t know if it makes sense for us, after going to all-electronic tolling, to go back again.”

 

Temporary revenue loss

The determining factor will be the Thruway Authority’s ability to get the state Legislature to give it, and New York’s other toll agencies are an enforcement hammer to use on scofflaws.

The toll agencies are still drafting a bill, but it is likely to propose the suspension of vehicle registrations until delinquent bills are paid, the policy in several other E-ZPass states.

Uniform policies would also position the Port Authority and the New York State Bridge Authority, the Thruway Authority, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, to forge reciprocity agreements with other E-ZPass states to track scofflaws.

“The biggest obstacle to all-electronic tolling at every agency has been enforcement, not having the ability to go after scofflaws,” said Madison. “I’ve got to believe that building the new bridge will help focus attention on the importance of this bill and give us a better chance of getting it passed

The authority’s move toward AET, he continued, will include a campaign to increase E-ZPass market share, only 66 percent Thruway-wide, to keep collection expenses to a minimum. Market share is higher at the TZB, 79 percent, and 76 percent at Yonkers and Harriman, but higher still at most Port Authority and MTA crossings.

Madison said the Thruway Authority expects to lose some toll revenue in making this shotgun leap but considers the loss worth the gain in keeping traffic moving during the TZB’s construction. However, once the new bridge opens, the authority can’t afford any “leakage” in toll revenue, not when it has to pay off the bonds for its construction, and not if it wants to expand AET to Yonkers and Harriman. “The legislation will give us the teeth we need,” said Madison.

and w’� e PLh� it to the Yonkers and Harriman toll plazas until the old bridge is demolished and the second span opens.

 

“It doesn’t make sense for Tappan Zee Constructors to tear down the toll booths and build temporary replacements and then tear them down and build permanent ones,” said Madison. “So I don’t know if it makes sense for us, after going to all-electronic tolling, to go back again.”

 

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