Drivers could soon skip booth, pay toll

Patrick wants test for scanner system

By Glen Johnson
Associated Press / March 4, 2010

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Massachusetts highway officials may begin testing a new form of electronic tolling within months, Governor Deval Patrick said yesterday.

Speaking during his monthly talk session on WTKK-FM, Patrick said the tests may be staged in lanes at the Massachusetts Turnpike exchange at Route 128 and on the Mystic Tobin Bridge connecting the city to the North Shore.

“I’d love to try to do something sooner rather than later,’’ the governor said. Asked to narrow the time frame, he said, “I hope it’s months, just a pilot.’’

With open-road tolling, drivers would not have to stop at a toll booth but instead would pass under a scanner that assesses a toll. The scanner could read transponders like those currently used by FastLane customers, but it also could read a license plate and send a bill or debit a driver’s account.

The governor said instituting open-road tolling would make toll-paying easier for drivers, eliminating toll booth lines and alleviating the need to fumble for change.

FastLane transponders are given out free. Still, some drivers do not want them, even though the transponder would allow them to use dedicated payment lanes that rarely have traffic lines.

Patrick said he has met with Raytheon officials to talk about their open-road tolling equipment. The FastLane program is run by another contractor.

In the radio interview, Patrick also said he does not think there is a need for additional panels to investigate the local and State Police response to the 1986 shooting by Amy Bishop, the University of Alabama professor accused of shooting and killing three colleagues. Massachusetts investigators concluded the 1986 shooting of Bishop’s brother was accidental, but Norfolk District Attorney William Keating has convened an inquest to determine whether it may have been a murder.