Vermonters could face an additional fee when the Massachusetts Turnpike switches to an all-electronic tolling system this fall.
And since Vermont does not issue the "E-ZPass" electronic transponders, drivers will have to receive one from another state's transportation agency.
Officials with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation announced this week that an all-electronic tolling system on the Mass Pike will start on Oct. 28.
The new system will replace the toll plazas and toll collectors along the 135-mile stretch of I-90 with an automated system using electronic gantries over the highway and E-ZPass transponders in vehicles. Those without a transponder in their vehicle face paying a higher rate and a 60-cent billing fee – their license plate would be scanned automatically and they would receive a bill in the mail.
Vermont has no plans to make the E-ZPass transponders available to residents, according to Richard Tetrault, deputy secretary for the state Agency of Transportation. He noted that Vermont, which has no toll interstate highways, is not part of the multi-state E-ZPass consortium,
Vermont drivers who frequently travel the Mass Pike and want an E-ZPass transponder, he said, would have to sign up through that state.
The "all electronic toll" system will replace tool booth infrastructure and toll collectors. Instead, a dozen toll gantries with electronic sensors would hang above the highway. When a vehicle with an E-ZPass transponder passes underneath, the system will charge the customer's account. If no transponder is found, a camera captures an image of the vehicle's license plate. The license plate would be matched with the vehicle registration holder and would be mailed a bill, a system dubbed "pay-by-plate." Drivers without a transponder who are from Vermont or other states fall into the latter category.
Massachusetts officials on Monday touted the system as a way to reduce traffic congestion and air pollution, and avoid crashes at toll plazas. Drivers won't have to stop at a toll plaza when they exit the highway, or slow down at the gantries.
Officials also talked about the toll rates. Under the current proposal, E-ZPass drivers who want to drive the entire length of the 135-mile toll road will see a 45-cent discount, from the current $6.60 to $6.15. Drivers that don't use an E-ZPass transponder will see the cost nearly double: from $7.10 to $13.40 plus a 60-cent billing fee.
Massachusetts, New Hampshire and New York join 13 other states in the E-ZPass consortium. Vermont, with its 321-miles of toll-free interstate highways, is not.
There's no talk of offering E-ZPass transponders any time soon, Tetrault said. Other states pay for the administrative overhead, which includes paying for each transponder.
"We wouldn't realize the revenue of tolling from other states," he said. "There's no reason or ability to administer a transponder program."
But there's no residency requirement to get a transponder, said Bill Boynton, spokesperson for the state transportation agency in New Hampshire. He said out-of-state residents or frequent travelers through the state apply for an E-ZPass from New Hampshire. A transponder issued by New Hampshire offers a 30 percent discount on tolls in that state, Boynton said. Other states have their own discounts.
To be eligible for a Massachusetts discount, drivers must get an Massachusetts-issued E-ZPass transponder, according to the MassDOT website.
MassDOT Board of Directors will make a final vote on rates on Oct. 6.
For more information on other state's E-ZPass systems...
Massachusetts: https://www.ezpassma.com, customer Service at 1-877-627-7745
New Hampshire: https://www.ezpassnh.com, customer service at 877-643-9727
New York: https://www.e-zpassny.com, customer service at 800-333-8655
Contact Ed Damon at 802-447-7567, ext. 111.