2008-12-31 / Editorial

The time has come for E-ZPass

By David Darlington, Chairman, RITBA

Few drivers would complain about having an easier commute, and that's just what the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority is hoping to achieve with the implementation of a new electronic toll system on its Newport Pell Bridge.

Joining 13 other states that use the E-ZPass system, RITBA seeks to bring local commuters into the 21st century with the most effi- cient method possible of passing through the tolls. That means no more tokens, beginning in mid- January. Instead, drivers will want to consider equipping their cars with E-ZPass transponders, which will allow them to go through the tolls without stopping.

Despite our attachment to the token system and an almost 40- year history of its use in Rhode Island, we are saying goodbye to that now-antiquated approach and ushering in this new and compelling way of smoothly getting cars across the bridge.

In fact, we were long overdue for an upgrade. Tokens have become such a vintage item that nobody manufactures them in the United States anymore. This makes the cost for new tokens extremely high. Last time we ordered parts for the token machine, we had to get them from Australia. Given the circumstances, it was hard to turn down the opportunity to implement the promising new technology of E-ZPass. It has already proven itself and is used in all states with tolls between here and Virginia to the south, and the Mississippi River to the west. We're pleased to join that network.

Members who choose E-ZPass prepay their tolls and outfit their vehicles with a small electronic device that automatically deducts the toll payment from the customer's initial deposit, thus allowing them to drive through tolls without stopping. That transponder will work in any car registered under the account, and can be used at any E-ZPass toll in the country. Rhode Island residents using an E-ZPass will only pay 83-cents on the Newport Pell Bridge - a $1.17 discount off the standard $2 cash rate.

I want you to know that the decision to move to this system was a deliberate, well-thought out one. During the past few years, RITBA has thoroughly researched E-ZPass and how it will benefit travelers on the Newport Pell Bridge.

Understanding that change can bring confusion, RITBA has worked hard to keep an open dialogue with the local community in order to inform residents, while at the same time seeking their valuable input. After a series of wellattended open houses and town meetings, we are confident that we are heading in the right direction with E-ZPass.

Already, the upcoming transition has shown encouraging results. Since Nov. 3, RITBA has taken more than 6,500 applications for the E-ZPass system, revealing significant interest among local drivers. New customers can sign up online or download applications at www.ezpassritba.com.

So, what will the change look like for bridge goers? The short answer is efficient, cost-effective and environmentally sound travel.

With the first lanes of E-ZPass now open, all vehicles with a transponder can travel through the E-ZPass lanes without having to stop to pay by cash or token. This will keep vehicles moving across the bridge, cut down on traffic and reduce emissions from idling cars. In addition, E-ZPass members will be able to use their transponder in any of the other 13 states where EZPass is accepted.

The E-ZPass system is slated for completion in mid-January. At that time, tokens will no longer be accepted. We encourage everyone to keep this timeline in mind when purchasing additional tokens.

On behalf of RITBA, I want to thank the community for its input and its willingness to embrace the E-ZPass program. Through a lot of hard work, the program has finally come to fruition. As with anything new, there will be a period of adjustment at the beginning, but I am confident that you will find it an overall improvement. Our goal is to upgrade the system while simultaneously giving you an easier, friendlier and more economical commute. E-ZPass will make that possible.

I encourage those who want to learn more about E-ZPass to go to www.ezpassritba.org.

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