New Hampshire is now offering Massachusetts residents a toll transponder for only $5, but the deal will only last through Tuesday, August 2.
The Massachusetts Turnpike Authority charges $27.50 for a Fast Lane transponder, reports the Boston Globe, the steepest fee of the 10 states that belong to the E-Z Pass toll-collection network that stretches from Maine to Virginia. The high charge has angered some area drivers who have persistently boycotted the Fast Lane program, which allows drivers to pay tolls without stopping at a booth.
More than 5,000 Massachusetts motorists have purchased a toll tag since the New Hampshire Department of Transportation introduced the $5 special a month ago. Transponders sold in any of the E-Z Pass states work in all ten of the participating states.
“I’ve refused to get Fast Lane; paying $27 and change for the privilege of spending money doesn’t appeal to me,” David Bookbinder of Revere told the Globe. “When they mentioned the $5 price was for a short period of time, I grabbed it right away.”
New Hampshire had planned on offering the $5 price until May 1, 2006, reports the Globe. However, lawmakers voted to cut short the discounts, worried about a rush of out-of-staters snatching up the transponders and creating a financial hit for the DOT. Each tag costs the agency $23.85, plus a few dollars to process the orders and mail the devices.
Since the orders began on June 20, more than 160,000 transponders have been sold, with about 90,000 new accounts established. The discounted offering has already cost the department, “For every transponder New Hampshire is selling, we’re losing $22,” Bill Boynton, Transportation Department spokesman told the Globe. Boynton said that by last week, 91% of accounts were started by New Hampshire residents, but about 5,400 accounts had been established by Massachusetts households.
According to the Globe, drivers can order an E-Z Pass from any participating agency along the East Coast, however, each tag comes with an array of fees and discounts. Highway agencies in six states don’t charge for the transponder, though some require a deposit.
Even though Massachusetts motorists get hit with the highest up-front fee, the Turnpike Authority doesn’t charge any monthly service fees. Also, it offers 25 to 50 cent discounts for to Fast Lane users in the Sumner and Ted Williams tunnels and at the Allston and Weston toll plazas. E-Z Pass tags from other states are charged full-price at these locations.
Massachusetts motorists who save $22 up front by buying a New Hampshire transponder could eventually end up paying more in tolls over time.
The Turnpike Authority told the Globe that they are not concerned about drivers going out of state to purchase the tags because the agency collects the tolls regardless of which state the tag is from.