With this post, we’re adding a new regular feature here on 1808Delaware we’re calling “Life in Ohio.”
Residents of Delaware County are impacted by news and developments from around Ohio, from communications to transportation to development and more. We’re now going to highlight news stories from around the Buckeye State that may well have an impact on a good number of our readers.
We start with news of a major change for a major highway in northern Ohio — the Ohio Turnpike.
The Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission (OTIC) has embarked on a revolutionary journey to modernize the state’s toll collection system. Adopted in 2017, the Toll Collection System (TCS) and Customer Service Center (CSC) Strategic Plan aims to enhance the customer experience, streamline operations, and prepare for the future. Executive Director Ferzan M. Ahmed, P.E., emphasizes that this plan is a “bold step forward in convenience” without jeopardizing the financial stability of the system.
Open Road Tolling (ORT) Technology
The Strategic Plan introduces highway speed E-ZPass lanes, often referred to as “Open Road Tolling” (ORT), at the Eastgate and Westgate Toll Plazas. This technology will allow E-ZPass users to travel non-stop at highway speeds (70 mph), reducing travel time and enhancing convenience.
Two new mainline plazas with highway-speed E-ZPass lanes are under construction in Lucas County and Trumbull County. These modernized plazas will collect a flat rate toll, reflecting the approximate cost of trips between specific mileposts.
“The strategic plan to remove gates and install new technology is a bold step forward in convenience for our customers without introducing significant revenue risk to our financial position. On the operations side, we will gain significant efficiencies without wide-scale organizational changes. Customers have asked us to remove gates and we are preparing to do so.”Executive Director Ferzan M. Ahmed, P.E.
Reconfiguration and Reduction of Toll Plazas
The new plan will reduce the number of Toll Plazas from 31 to 24, allowing local travelers to enter and exit without traveling through a toll plaza. Existing Toll Plazas will be reconfigured during a future demolition phase but will remain open for travelers.
Toll lane gates will be removed from all entrance lanes and E-ZPass-Only exit lanes. New license plate image capture cameras will be installed to catch toll violators, while toll lane gates will be retained in non-E-ZPass exit lanes.
The Ohio Turnpike will continue to operate its in-house E-ZPass Ohio Customer Service Center, with plans to add staff to handle calls related to unpaid toll processing. Upgrades to the E-ZPass website and customer service center software system will further improve customer service.
Benefits of the Recommended Plan
The plan is designed to significantly improve the customer experience for E-ZPass users by eliminating gates in all dedicated E-ZPass lanes. Travelers can now enjoy non-stop travel at low speeds (10 mph) in designated lanes at all remaining Toll Plazas, and at highway speeds (70 mph) once the plan is fully implemented in late 2023.
Cost Analysis and Implementation Timeline
The Commission estimates a savings of approximately $257 million in operating costs over 30 years. These savings include a reduction in utility and maintenance costs at the nine reconfigured toll plazas.
The capital implementation cost for this plan is currently estimated to be more than $270 million. Preliminary construction began in late 2019, with the new Toll Collection System anticipated for deployment in late 2023.
The Ohio Turnpike’s new toll collection system is a testament to the state’s commitment to innovation, efficiency, and customer satisfaction. By embracing modern technology and strategic planning, the OTIC is setting a precedent for transportation systems nationwide.