LET’S TALK BUSINESS
Life in the fast lanes
New technology to soon speed up trips across Pell Bridge
If you have crossed the Pell Bridge recently, you will have noticed that the toll plaza has been under construction.
What’s going on there and why?
The Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority, through an innovative public-private partnership, is upgrading the toll plaza and installing new technology that allows E-ZPass users to cross the plaza without stopping at a collection booth. The booths in the four center lanes, along with their gates, have been removed, and these lanes are reserved for vehicles with E-ZPass transponders.
Drivers paying with cash will continue to stop at a booth to pay the toll.
For the 80 percent of people who cross the Pell Bridge with E-ZPass, this change will mean that their travels will be faster. E-ZPass users can continue through the plaza at 40 mph, and the cash lanes should move faster without the E-ZPass drivers in them — even though E-ZPass also can be used in the gated lanes.
Be aware that if you are a driver with E-ZPass who wishes to use the Jamestown exit, you must use the far right lane instead of the non-gated lanes in the center of the plaza. The new configuration of the lane dividers is longer, and drivers will not be able to get from the high-speed lanes to the right lanes to exit.
Open road tolling is a technology that captures the transponder signal as the vehicle passes under a gantry. Cameras are mounted on each lane to take photographs of the license plates of vehicles lacking transponders. Owners of those vehicles will be mailed a violation notice for the toll— and a fine — totaling $85, which equals the current fine for toll violations. If the fee is not paid within 30 days, another $40 will be added to the total.
Last year, the bridge authority awarded a $4.5 million contract to VION to modernize the plaza with open road tolling. This included the design and construction of the gantry, booths and lanes, as well as administration of the toll violators program. It’s a public-private partnership through which the private partner will assume the capital cost and financial risk associated with implementing the improvements.
The public-private partnership makes a lot of sense for the quasi-state agency because it allows the Turnpike and Bridge Authority to collect toll revenue in the method that is convenient for the vast majority of the motorists who cross the bridge, and at the same time allow the authority to use private capital that would otherwise be collected through bonds and the requisite implementation of higher tolls.
For now, please be careful when approaching the toll plaza and read the signs about the correct lane to use.
Remember, E-ZPass users can use any lane, but if you are paying in cash, you must choose the outer lanes with the gates.
If you have any questions about open road tolling, E-ZPass or wish to buy a transponder, visit ritba.org or call (877) 743-9727. Normal E-ZPass office hours are Monday through Friday from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. and on Saturdays from 8 a.m.-2 p.m.
David Darlington, chairman of the Rhode Island Turnpike & Bridge Authority, wrote this installment of “Let’s Talk Business” on behalf of the Newport County Chamber of Commerce, which provides the monthly column.
Darlington and Buddy Croft, executive director of the bridge authority, will join Jody Sullivan, executive director of the chamber, on WADK 1540-AM on Friday, May 25, from 11 a.m.-noon.
Copyright © 2012 Edward A. Sherman Publishing Co. 05/19/2012