EZ Pass

Taking a toll

February 29th, 2012 at 12:02 pm by under Personalities, Traffic

We knew the issue of tolls at the Downtown and Midtown Tunnels would be a hot topic.

Since our series of special reports on the tolls aired early this week, we’ve been inundated with email, Facebook comments and tweets on Twitter. Plenty of people are concerned, upset, and/or apprehensive about the tolls that are expected to stick around for the next five decades.

I learned the very earliest those tolls would be in place is August, although we’ve also heard it will be closer to the end of the year. Regardless, we felt it was important to start preparing drivers now for the possibility of added fees to drive through two of our area’s busy tunnels.

With an off-peak toll starting at $1.59, there’s plenty of anxiety about cost. A rush-hour ride Monday through Friday would cost you $1.84. That toll price is expected to rise over time.

What was shocking to me is how much more it will cost if you don’t have an E-Z Pass transponder. The transponder is a small box you can get online, by phone or through a retail center in Gloucester (another one will open up at some point in Portsmouth). You attach it to your windshield or to your license plate. The toll will be taken electronically from your account. No toll booths, no toll attendant, no stopping at the tunnel. The way to pay is through E-Z Pass, because without it, you will be charged a toll recovery fee, which would be two times the toll rate. So, you’d have to pay $4.77 if you didn’t have an E-Z Pass and drove through the Downtown Tunnel in an off-peak time spot. During rush hour, a ride through the tunnel without an E-Z Pass would be $5.02.

People have been emailing me, asking about relatives who come in from out of town, or those who drive through the tunnel five or six times a year. They want to know if they need to get an E-Z Pass. They don’t have to, of course. But riding through the tunnel without one means they’ll get a bill in the mail for that higher price. High speed cameras will capture your license plate and find your address from that. You’ll have thirty days to appeal the fee or pay up. Either way you will pay and you’ll pay more if you don’t have an E-Z Pass.

The transponder itself is $25, but that fee is waived if you tie your account to a bank account. You’ll have to fund the account, so you’ll pay $35 up front per transponder and your toll will be deducted from that amount. Once the balance falls below $10, another $35 will be pulled from your bank account. Is it worth it to get one if you only travel through a toll a few times a year? That’s up to you to decide. This system works in 14 other states, though, so if you travel, if may save you time and some money in other places.

There are still plenty of topics to cover related to the toll story, so we are not done yet. Let us know what other issues concern you. I can be reached at cheryl.tan@wavy.com

We have plenty of information at www.wavy.com.

Here’s a link to get more information and to sign up for an E-Z Pass Acount: