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Ohio pike gets EZPass



Published: Wed, September 30, 2009 @ 12:01 a.m.

Fares will increase Thursday for motorists who don’t get an EZPass.

By DENISE DICK

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

BEREA — New technology from the Ohio Turnpike Commission would eliminate motorists’ need to dig for change, locate tickets and wait in line.

Beginning Thursday, the commission will offer EZPass, an automatic, electronic toll-collection system. Many other states — including Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Illinois and New York — implemented the system years ago.

L. George Distel, OTC’s executive director, said the turnpike had an aging system, and when comparing the cost of replacing the system with putting in one that offers EZPass, there wasn’t much difference.

EZPass also has the added benefit of customer convenience, Distel said.

The cost of the new system is about $50 million.

“The response has been tremendous,” he said. “We’ve been inundated. We’ve already had 16,000 transponders ordered, and we’re processing between 800 and 900 more. I expect that by Thursday, we’ll have 20,000.”

Applications for the pass are available on OTC’s Web site, www.ohioturnpike.org, or by calling (888) 876-7453.

The commission will lease transponders for 75 cents per month, and a credit card is required to open an EZPass account.

There is also an initial $3 shipping-and-handling fee.

A $25 starting balance per transponder will be charged to the credit card to establish the account. Toll fares will be deducted from that balance.

If the balance dips to $10 or lower, the customer’s credit card will be charged to increase the balance to at least $25.

Gwen Griffin of Mineral Ridge already has her EZPass.

“The rates are going up,” said Griffin, who drives to work in Brecksville every day. “If you get the EZPass, you keep the same rates.”

A cross-state trip will cost drivers $4.75 more under the new rate structure. For those who opt for EZ Pass, the rate structure won’t change.

The increase will fund the EZPass system as well as other capital improvements.

Griffin now pays $2 each way of her trip. Without EZPass, she’d pay an additional 75 cents each way.

“For me, the thing is the cost,” she said.

She also looks forward to spending less time waiting to pay tolls. With the transponder, drivers will be able to drive through without manually paying a toll.

Distel said the transponder, which is about the size of a deck of cards, eliminates the need for drivers to carry change or cash or to roll down their windows on a cold winter day.

Doug Sewell, who lives on Youngstown’s North Side, bought an EZPass through Pennsylvania about six years ago because he travels in Pennsylvania and New York. Now that it’s available, Sewell will use his EZPass in Ohio, too.

“It’s a great convenience and time-saver because I don’t have to carry cash or make complete stops to get on or off of turnpikes,” Sewell said in an e-mail.

He drives to Maryland and Washington, D.C., several times a year, “and it means not having to carry cash for turnpike tolls that now approach $10 each way.”

Mary Ann Cruz of Austintown commutes each day via the turnpike to her job in Brecksville. It costs her $20 per week, she said.

She’s not sure whether she’ll get an EZPass. She worries about the increasing rates beyond this week’s increase and the elimination of jobs.

Another fare increase is expected in 2012, which will also have an EZPass and a non-EZPass rate.

Cruz says she sees more people using the turnpike lately including motorists from Pennsylvania and Michigan and questions the need for a fare increase.

denise_dick@vindy.com


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