After toll booths, what lies in the road ahead

By Joe Angelino

Early in the summer of 2017 my wife and I traveled by car to Newport, RI for a week’s vacation. According to the GPS guidance the shortest and best route was, as expected, by way of the Massachusetts Turnpike.

If you haven’t been on the Mass Pike in the past six months, you wouldn’t know the toll booths have recently disappeared. As we approached the former location of the toll booths, our GPS warned us to ‘slow down, toll plaza ahead’, but the small occupied boxes, and the equally narrow traffic lanes between them were gone.

What remained where the toll booths once stood for nearly fifty years was new jet-black pavement contrasting with the surrounding old gray macadam. The booths were replaced by overhead gantry scanners and cameras spaced out a various locations along the highway and at the exit and entry points to the limited access highway. The convenience was great, and not slowing down surely saved fuel and brakes, it’s just too bad for all of the Mass Pike toll-takers.

Then I began to speculate how we would be charged for this convenience because my wife’s car has no E-ZPass transponder attached to the windshield. About a month later the Mass Pike toll charges showed up on my E-ZPass statement. Wait a minute, my wife’s car has no E-ZPass transponder, yet I was billed on my E-ZPass account. And by the way, my wife and I have different last names. My guess is the gantry scanners, cameras and associated data base made the connection between her car’s registration information and the address on my E-ZPass account.

Our address is the only common denominator between us as far as the Mass Pike knows.

Being intrigued by this technology, my thought process took this another step. The gantry scanners have been set up at known points along the highway scanning every car that passes to assess toll charges. Suppose these gantry scanners are erected on other highways across the state to thwart speeders, you know, in the name of safety, not for the fine revenue.

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