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Ohio Drivers Consider New Technology on Toll Roads to Provide Greater Mobility

By: 
Bill Cramer

Ohio Turnpike customers are beginning to cast their lot with faster, more convenient mobility, with nearly two-thirds of respondents in a recent survey saying they would consider or support a toll increase if it meant getting rid of gates along the road.

An overwhelming 89 to 93% of E-ZPass customers, AAA members, and other turnpike users were in favor of removing some or all of the gates, Ohio Turnpike Executive Director Randy Cole reported last month. The big news was that 31% said they would support a corresponding toll increase, and another 34% said they might support it.

The end objective, is to “improve the customer travel experience,” Cole wrote. With the survey data in hand, the Turnpike will now consider a range of options: no change, a range of gateless options for E-ZPass users, or cashless tolling.

Always Pushing Forward

Last fall, the Ohio Turnpike announced the customer research as a first step in its next system upgrade. The survey “asks people whether they use electronic toll payment and whether they’d support a toll increase if gates were to be removed at toll plazas to allow faster vehicle processing,” the Toledo Blade reported at the time.

In the previous system upgrade, in 2009, the state introduced E-ZPass for electronic toll collection, shifted from vehicle weight to axle count and height as its basis for pricing, but opted against open road tolling as an alternative to toll plazas.

While 56.7% of Turnpike users now pay their tolls electronically, the current system requires them to slow to 5 mph to enter and exit the road. Brian Newbacher, spokesman for the Ohio Turnpike, said the gate-free option is back on the table.

“The lifespan of our current technology is 10 to 12 years, and it’s not yet obsolete. However, a lot has happened with tolling technology since E-ZPass was deployed,” he told The Blade.

“It’s prudent to begin planning now by evaluating the existing system, which includes looking at the costs to maintain it, gathering public input, and researching best practices by other states and tolling authorities.”

Paying for Better Service

Part of that work is now done, and its great news that such a large proportion of Ohio Turnpike customers say they would pay for the use an ease of new technology.

It’s one thing to make the case that you get what you pay for. That highway infrastructure is an investment that keeps on giving back. And, of course we know, there are no free roads.

But there’s nothing more gratifying than hearing it back from customers. This is just one step in the Ohio Turnpike’s renewal process, but the authority’s hard work, research and listening to customers is clearly paying off.

For the latest on all-electronic tolling, register today for the Joint Symposium on AET and Managed Lanes, co-hosted by IBTTA and the U.S. Transportation Research Board, July 16-18, 2017 in Dallas, TX.