Drivers on Interstate 90 in Massachusetts can now put toll booth backups in their rearview mirror for good. In October 2016, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) went live with an all-electronic tolling (AET) system across all 140 miles of I-90, also known as the Massachusetts Turnpike, as well as the Tobin Bridge and Callahan, Sumner and Ted Williams Tunnels. MassDOT’s AET program, EZDriveMA, is increasing safety and convenience for travelers by replacing manual toll collection at on/off ramps with overhead toll gantries on the main line. Instead of dramatically reducing speeds and getting caught in toll plaza traffic, vehicles can now maintain highway speeds as they pass under the gantries. Drivers are tolled either by a pre-paid transponder or through the mail via license plate capture imaging.
The $130 million system—the largest and most complex AET project of its kind to be delivered under a design-build contract—was deployed by Raytheon Company, the prime contractor and toll systems integrator, and a team of Massachusetts-based companies including CDM Smith. CDM Smith provided infrastructure design engineering, tolling system design support services, traffic management and program quality assurance services. SPS New England (contractor) and Liddell Brothers (toll equipment installer) rounded out the team.
While many of the new U.S. toll facilities built in recent years have been developed with electronic toll collection, “MassDOT’s project is very unique in the toll industry,” said Kris Wuestefeld, CDM Smith vice president and deputy program manager. “This program is true all-electronic, open road tolling with no cash option. MassDOT is strongly encouraging drivers to obtain E-ZPass transponders and those that choose not to join the E-ZPass program are able to pay their toll using a sophisticated video tolling program.” Wuestefeld said that by removing the toll booths completely, MassDOT expects to reduce traffic congestion and improve safety significantly for drivers.
As the lead infrastructure designer, CDM Smith’s team was responsible for structural analysis and design of 16 toll gantries, lane controller pads, modular building foundations, communication to existing fiber optic networks, electrical service to gantries, environmental permitting and traffic management. CDM Smith staff also worked closely with the project’s toll system design, development and testing group and supported the integration of the AET system with MassDOT’s new EZDriveMA account management system. Additionally, CDM Smith administered overall quality control on the project, reviewing and approving more than 250 civil design plans and specifications, toll system design documentation, toll system and equipment testing scripts and construction plans.
In addition to the EZDriveMA’s safety and traffic improvements, Wuestefeld said another big benefit of AET is lower operating costs. “By eliminating its cash toll collection system, MassDOT will save on future toll plaza facility construction and manual toll equipment maintenance.” Wuestefeld also noted that this project represents a new opportunity in the toll industry in terms of toll systems procurement. “This is a design-build-maintain contract for 10 years. This model—requiring the toll systems integrator to partner with engineers and contractors—could be the wave of the future for tolling agencies.”