First run of E-ZPass should begin Tuesday
After almost a year in the making, the first cars should start passing through the E-ZPass system on the Newport Pell Bridge next week.
Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority Executive Director Buddy Croft said that Dec. 16 is the target date for opening the EZPass lanes.
Jim Crawford, executive director of the E-ZPass Interagency Group, said that at first, he thought the Dec. 16 target date was ambitious, "But I see no reason for the opening date not to be met so far. This is technology, and it is possible that something could go wrong, but as of now, things look good," Crawford said.
Jay Johns, of Wilbur Smith Associates, consultants for the implementation of the system, said that although people cannot see it, most of the equipment is already installed. "They'll see one gate in each direction put in place two days before the opening," Johns said. "Then a mixed use lane for cash or E-ZPass will be installed a few days later."
He said that the equipment had to be thoroughly tested with 23 other E-ZPass systems before opening all the lanes. He said, however, that two lanes in each direction would be opened within a few days of Dec. 16. The remaining lanes will be installed after the first of the year, he said.
"Anyone wishing to purchase a transponder and open an E-ZPass account should go to the E-ZPass trailer adjacent to the Toll Plaza offi ces from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to noon on Saturday to fill out an application form," Croft said.
The cost is $10 for the first transponder, $15 for the second, and $20.95 for each additional transponder, "which is our cost," Croft added. Families may have up to four transponders on one account and businesses are eligible for an unlimited number.
The transponders will be mailed to applicants on Dec. 12 and 13, which Croft believes will allow adequate time to receive them for use on Dec. 16. Local residents will be charged 83-cents per crossing with a Rhode Island transponder, the same price as for bulk purchased tokens. The cash rate will remain at $2 and the out-of state transponder rate will be $1.75.
Transponders may be purchased by cash, check, credit card, or debit cards with a credit card logo, Croft said. "We prefer credit or debit cards because the system is set up to be tied to a credit card account."
A $25 deposit is required for each account, and when the account falls below $10, an additional $15 will be added to keep the account at a $25 level.
Residents owning E-ZPass transponders from other states prior to Sept. 24 will be eligible for up to $25 credited to their Rhode Island E-ZPass accounts, Croft said. A credit of $10 will be given for the purchase of one transponder and an additional $15 for the second transponder.
Tokens will still be honored after E-ZPass is operational, Croft said. "There will be cash only lanes, token only lanes, and an E-ZPass lane in both directions," Croft added. A date will be set and announced when tokens will cease to be honored. According to Croft, there will be plenty of time to use or trade in tokens after the announcements are made.
He said that announcements for the E-ZPass opening will be made in newspapers as well as on television and radio stations. "I am sure that E-ZPass will be the talk of the local news when it is implemented," Croft said. "We expect a smooth transition from the tokens to the E-ZPass system. It will ease traffic congestion and make toll collection simple and convenient for everyone."
U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy recently presented RITBA Chairman Dave Darlington and Director Croft with a check for $500,000 in federal funds that Kennedy secured for the implementation and installation of the E-ZPass system. Kennedy said the new system would provide a service to the users of the bridge, aid in attracting tourism and help reduce the amount of emissions from cars idling at the tollbooth.
The Newport Pell Bridge will be the 50th site using the E-ZPass system in the Eastern United States.