In a press release sent out yesterday, Governor Cuomo gave an update on his $500 million overhaul of NYC’s bridges’ and tunnels’ tolling systems. When he first put forth the plan in October, he included flashy renderings of the new cashless collection systems, complete with LED light shows, but his latest announcement tells us that by the end of 2017, old-fashioned tollbooths will be a thing of the past at all MTA-operated bridges and tunnels in the New York metropolitan region.
As the press release explains, the new Open Road Tolling system (ORT) will work as follows:
State-of-the-art sensors and cameras will be suspended over the highway on structures called “gantries” that read E-ZPass tags and take license plate images, so vehicles no longer have to stop to pay the toll. Vehicles with E-ZPass tags are automatically charged. Non-E-ZPass vehicles have their license plates recorded and a bill is mailed to the registered owner of each vehicle every 30 days.
Cuomo touts the electronic tolling as a way to speed up traffic, and thereby save time (21 hours a year for the average commuter, he says) and reduce carbon emissions by 20 million pounds (the equivalent to 100 million gallons of gasoline that amount to $2.3 million). To crack down on potential “scofflaws,” the state will deploy 150 State Troopers at key checkpoints to hold these persons accountable (if they have an unpaid fare it will alert the on-site authorities when they go through an ORT the next time), as well as “bolster counter-terrorism efforts.” Does this sound like too much trouble, and is worth $500 million? Or is this a sound investment in the future of transportation?
Automatic tolling will begin next month at the Hugh L. Carey and Queens Midtown Tunnels. The Rockaway Bridges will be complete in the spring and the RFK Bridge and Verrazano in the summer. The Throgs Neck Bridge and Bronx-Whitestone Bridge will be ready next fall.
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