Electronic tolling is coming to the turnpike, and the state will make it tough on those who don't get on board. At the least it should be fair to those out west who do.
All-Electronic Tolling is expected to go live on the 125-mile Interstate 90 on October 28, and drivers with EZPass transponders will be able to travel the length of the pike for $6.25. It will cost drivers without transponders nearly double that ($11.70) to pay the cost of billing those drivers by mail. That penalty will encourage drivers to get EZPass, which is defensible given that the new system decrease traffic jams at toll booths and will improve air quality because drivers won't be idling at the booths.
What is indefensible, however, is carving out deep discounts for residents of Eastern Massachusetts who will spend relatively little drive-time on the turnpike and not doing the same for Berkshire residents on the far western end of the turnpike. Residents who commute to the Springfield area or perhaps beyond for their jobs should certainly receive similar discounts.
Representative William "Smitty" Pignatelli, a Lenox Democrat, has filed legislation seeking a commuter rate for those who travel east on the Turnpike for employment reasons (Eagle, September 16). There is no good reason to oppose that eminently fair legislation. Berkshire residents routinely suffer for being far from Boston, the seat of power in the state, largely through neglect. Giving turnpike toll breaks to eastern communities and not those in the west would be an example of that neglect. It should be resolved by the Legislature before EZPass becomes reality in late October.