Mass Pike to Go Interoperable
By Peter Samuel
The Mass Pikes FAST LANE electronic toll system will go interoperable with E-ZPass within weeks making it fully compliant member of the E-ZPass Inter Agency Group (IAG). The Massachusetts system uses Mark IV manufactured equipment identical to E-ZPass. Interoperability involves common coding of transactions, the daily sharing of files of valid accounts, and exchanges of foreign transactions and monetary clearances each evening. The FAST LANE signage which a local bank sponsors will have a small version of the purple E-ZPass logo superimposed on it to tell E-ZPass accountholders that they can use their tags on the Mass system.
The Massachusetts Turnpike at its western rural end connects directly into the New York State Thruway where E-ZPass was pioneered, but motorists form the New York area often travel on the Mass Turnpike from NY City or western Connecticut after traveling I-95 or I-84. The Mass pike already has 70k FAST LANE patrons with New York addresses, so their tags will be able to be used on the NY system or NY tags used in MA.
TransCore has been the system integrator for one of the smoothest ET conversions, accomplished in about 18 months, and with some 240k tags in use just 6mths after opening. TransCore manages tag distribution and customer service under contract to the pike.
Maryland Transp Auth (MDTA) has an electronic toll system it calls M-TAG operational on Baltimores two toll tunnels. It is in the same position as the Mass Pike. A member of the E-ZPass (IAG) consortium it is committed to interoperability but it wont happen until mid to late 2000 at the soonest according to MDTAs Lori Vidil. She says they have a complicated job getting ET operation at the I-95 Kennedy plaza near the Delaware border because the toll plaza doubles as a truck weigh station. So far the M-TAG is only available for personal vehicles and before they join E-ZPass they have to get more automatic vehicle classification paraphernalia in place.
In Richmond VA the VDOT guys are apparently still dreaming that General Robert Lee rode past the Confederate Capitol on his large white steed at the head of columns of grey in a triumphal victory parade six-score years back and that they arent really part of the awful union with them dam-yankees, so VA motorists are warned in the SmartTag newsletter to bag any foreign transponders they might have acquired for use up-north in RF-resistant foil when at home, and to bag their VDOT models when they cross the Potomac, while all the yankee tags coming south are automatically VIOLATORS who set the VDOT buzzers buzzing and their cameras clicking. Its a mess. Hey, Lee lost.