| G. Michael Dobbs
BOSTON – According to The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) the transition from a toll-taker turnpike to an automated one is going well.
MassDOT officials have released a status report that they have been presenting around the Commonwealth. The toll plazas are in the process of being removed.
The Boston Globe reported the removal of the toll plaza has “shaved 12 minutes off the morning commutes” in that part of the state.
Patrick Marvin of MassDOT told Reminder Publications, “Construction operations at all locations are on or ahead of schedule due to the hard work of MassDOT crews and contractors, law enforcement personnel, the support of the traveling public, and favorable weather conditions. Phase One operations, which consisted of the demolition and reconstruction of the center lanes of travel at the toll plazas, were completed ahead of Thanksgiving allowing for less congestion in previous years. While each former toll plaza has a different design and management plan, crews are continuing to work on the areas to the left and right of center, and reconstruct the roadways for normal highway usage as weather conditions allow.”
Part of the conversion has been asking Massachusetts residents to sign up for a transponder to electronically pay tolls. Marvin said, “There are now a record 3,150,813 E-ZPass MA transponders in circulation.” He added, “Approximately 86 percent of these transactions are automatically registered as E-ZPass transactions, which is above MassDOT’s goal of 85 percent.”
Those motorists without a transponder receive a bill from the Commonwealth.
The remaining work on the toll plazas is expected to be completed by the end of this year, Marvin noted.
“Ongoing work also includes focusing on drainage issues in the area of former toll plazas and in some cases means the need to install catch basins and culverts. Other activities underway include repaving road surfaces and adding lighting, guardrail, and other safety features. This work will occur throughout the winter, as weather permits. Crews are working under more traditional construction hours, rather than the 24/7 schedule that was part of the first phase,” he explained.
Renderings in the report show, for instance, a widened and barrier free entrance and exit at the Springfield exit at the end of Interstate 291. This spring the report noted the focus for that entrance will be on finishing demolition, reconstructing the roadway, improving draining and the installation of new lighting. Final paving and landscaping should be completed by the fall.