Thursday, April 26, 2007

Back to the Future Tolls

The state of Washington learns how it used to be:

Washington's highway system entered a new age Wednesday by issuing its first-ever electronic tolling devices, for use on the new Tacoma Narrows Bridge later this year.

In the "Good to Go" program, drivers who stick a transponder on their windshields will be able to pay as they whiz down the road, instead of stopping at a toll booth.

Antennas mounted above the highway will read an electronic chip attached to the small sticker, and money will be deducted from the driver's pre-paid account — much like using a rechargeable debit card, coffee card or gift card.

....The same transponder technology will be tried on Highway 167 in the Green River Valley next year, for an experimental "high-occupancy toll" or HOT lane, where people driving alone will be able to pay to enter the high-occupancy lane. A future Highway 520 floating bridge would also use electronic devices to collect tolls.

"It's the wave of the future, as far as tolling in this state," said Janet Matkin, spokeswoman for the Washington State Department of Transportation.

....Bridge tolls used to be common in Washington state, and toll roads are proliferating in many states.

No tolls have been collected here since 1990, when a 10-cent toll expired on the Maple Street Bridge in downtown Spokane. A 70-cent toll on Highway 520, collected on the eastern shore of Lake Washington, ended in 1979. A toll on the Hood Canal Bridge expired in 1985 at $4.

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