– The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) Board of Directors voted today to approve rates for 16 gantry locations under the new All Electronic Tolling (AET) program which is scheduled to “go live” on October 28. Before the vote, Board members were provided information about public feedback received by MassDOT at seven public hearings and in writing and email from citizens.
“The public input was robust,” MassDOT Highway Administrator Thomas J. Tinlin said to Board members. “MassDOT received over 100 comments during the public process, and we adjusted our rate proposals according to the feedback we received. At each meeting, our rate proposals were set forth for each gantry and in addition to hearing about the rates, the MassDOT website had a toll calculator so the public could evaluate what they currently pay to travel between destinations and what they would pay under the proposed rates.”
The process of setting gantry rates also included an evaluation of pricing by Leonard Fournier, the MassDOT Toll payer Advocate, who was appointed to his volunteer role earlier this year and who advocated on behalf of toll payers to ensure that the interests of toll payers would be fully understood and considered by the MassDOT Board of Directors in its deliberations and decisions. The position was included as part of the 2009 Transportation Reform Act creating the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.
In a letter to Board members presented at the public meeting today, Fournier stated in part, “I believe that the staff recommended toll rate structure best captures the intent of a revenue neutral program. It is my understanding that under this structure, 63.7 percent of E-ZPassMA trips will either stay the same or decrease in cost, with a large percentage seeing a substantial decrease in cost.”
The new gantry rates will lead to a $7.1 million decrease in revenue. However, this revenue decrease will be absorbed into the $20 million per year savings realized when the Western Turnpike bonds are paid off in January 2017, and the approximately $5 million annual cost savings associated with AET.
With the gantry rate pricing structure, all vehicles with an E-ZPassMA transponder will receive a discount. Vehicles with no transponder will be mailed invoices. Under the gantry pricing, some travel on I-90 in the area of Springfield and Worcester will be free if drivers enter and exit the road between gantries. E-ZpassMA transponders are available free of charge and the MassDOT website has several steps for drivers to follow to obtain a transponder in five to seven days.
The approved AET gantry rates can be found online.
Yesterday, the State Records Conservation Board approved MassDOT’s data retention policy recommendations concerning the length of time information collected by gantries should be stored. The previous Administration had no data retention policy when electronic tolling first was launched in Massachusetts so electronic toll information has been stored since that time.
MassDOT told the Commonwealth’s record retention experts yesterday that the only purpose of keeping gantry information was for billing purposes so data retention times would be in keeping with how long the information should be retained to ensure accurate and proper processing for invoicing vehicle owners.
A general summary of highlights of the data retention policy include:
- Customer Account Demographic & Payment Methods – Includes electronic toll collection account holder applications, name, address, telephone, email address, vehicle make/model, license plates, transponder number, account holder method and source of payments, credit card data, customer account bank information for toll payments, account history, toll discount program information. Retention Period: Retained for as long as the customer account is open, and for 1 year after the account is closed. Account holder information is not a public record.
- Gantry information in particular -
(a) Transaction/Trip Data – toll data, toll zone data, vehicle speed, license plates data, axle count, vehicle class, all electronic tolling transponder data. Retention Period: Electronic data retained for 7 years and vehicle speed data retained for 30 days.
(b) Images of Vehicle and License Plates – Images of the vehicle make and model, license plate number, license plate state of origin, registration and type of vehicle. Retention Period: Electronic data retained for 7 years if license plate image is used for processing toll transaction and electronic data retained for 3 months if license plate image is not used for processing toll transaction. And for digital video images, video of vehicles traveling through toll zones: Retention Period: Electronic data retained for 180 days.
MassDOT anticipates that the AET system will “go live” in the evening of Friday, October 28, and that the next day, on Saturday, October 29, demolition of existing toll plazas will begin. The first phase of demolition will involve removing the middle areas of all current toll plazas on I-90 while maintaining lanes of travel to the right and left of the center areas.
MassDOT is holding four public meetings in October in Lenox, West Springfield, Westborough, and Brighton to provide information about what to expect for toll plaza demolition work in order to ensure that users of the Massachusetts Turnpike and neighboring communities are fully informed about the construction process to minimize any public inconvenience. All meetings will be held from 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. and are scheduled as follows:
• Tuesday, October 11th – Lenox
District 1 Highway Office, 270 Main Street
Plaza Focus: West Stockbridge and Lee
• Thursday, October 13th – West Springfield
Clarion Conference Center, 1080 Riverdale Street
Plaza Focus: Westfield, Westfield, West Springfield / I-91, Chicopee, Springfield / I-291, Ludlow, Palmer
• Tuesday, October 18th – Westborough
Town Hall, 34 West Main Street
Plaza Focus: Sturbridge / I-84, Worcester/
Auburn/I-290, Worcester/Rt. 146, Worcester/Millbury, Westborough/I-495, Framingham, Natick/Rt. 30
• Wednesday, October 19th – Brighton
WGBH - Yawkey Theater, One Guest Street
Plaza Focus: Weston, Allston/Brighton, Ted Williams Tunnel
Members of the public who are unable to attend a meeting may view a copy of the presentation online after the meeting. Public comments and questions may also be submitted by email.
Drivers are encouraged to join the E-ZPass MA program in advance of the transition to AET. Individuals may apply to receive a free transponder by visiting www.mass.gov/ezpassma and get more information regarding all electronic tolling in Massachusetts.