North Carolina Turnpike go for interoperability buying TransCore's eZGo Anywhere

May 4, 2010

North Carolina Turnpike is making a major move toward toll interoperability with purchase of transponders and readers that can cater to the sticker tags of the South and the E-ZPass transponders of the north. In a contract with TransCore they have made the first purchase of eZGo Anywhere transponders that can be read by Mark IV's E-ZPass readers and also by the electronic toll systems of Texas, Florida and other southern states.

This is TransCore's first successful sale of eZGo Anywhere transponders - although they are TransCore's core offering to the E-ZPass Inter Agency Group (IAG) as next generation equipment for electronic tolling to succeed the present Mark IV transponders.

Readers being bought by North Carolina are the TransCore Encompass 6 and can read transponders from north and south.

v Kapsch/Mark IV

TransCore beat a formidable Mark IV-Kapsch joint venture which proposed a high-end dual protocol transponder that can simulate a Mark IV IAG box at 915MHz as well as the new US government sponsored OmniAir ITS radio at 5.9GHz.

JJ Eden, North Carolina Turnpike chief operating officer told us the decision was difficult. Both contenders had strong proposals: "We obviously didn't find it an easy decision. We took over nine months. They were both very competitive, solid proposals."

Multi protocol readers, sub-$10 sticker tags clinched the deal

In the end TransCore's prevailed because of their ability to offer the economical sticker tags and readers and transponders that are interoperable. Mark IV/Kapsch clearly offered the broader ITS capabilities of 5.9GHz. But for a toll authority these ITS features are less compelling if only because their actual utilization is less certain.

Choice between near giveaway sticker tags and nationwide toll box for c$25

North Carolina motorists will have the choice of the low cost local solution of sticker tags, and the $25 cost of the hardcased eZGo transponder with the capability of paying tolls virtually anywhere in North America. The eZGo transponders obvious application is to North Carolina's north - in E-ZPass territory which stretches from West Virginia and Virginia northeast into Maine and northwest to Illinois.

TransCore's Simler says "proud"

In a TransCore statement John Simler, president, says that NCTA had a unique opportunity to become the most interoperable toll agency throughout North America, adding: "We're immensely proud that NCTA, after such a rigorous technology evaluation, chose TransCore's interoperable, multiprotocol RFID technology."

Below budget

Price of the contract is $5.9m, $1.5m below engineers' (PBSJ) estimate.

There are separate contracts already awarded to ACS for in-lane system integration, and to URS for back office operations, service centers and traffic management.

In today's TransCore contract Encompass-6 readers will cover 69 toll lanes (including shoulders) of an all-electronic toll (AET) system on the Triangle Expressway and will cost $2.77m ($40k/lane).

The contract provides for 350,000 transponders at $3.21m ($9.20ea average) - see table nearby.

317,000 of these are eGo Plus sticker tags at a standard price of $9.37ea, but with their price reduced by the supply of 135k in the first year at $5.84ea.

eZGo Anywhere hardcased transponders have a unit price of $25.27ea. They have a light and tones for feedback, plus a button for HOV declaration. The order provides for small numbers of bumper mounted transponders.

TransCore will also be responsible for integrating their RFID system with other AET elements including vehicle detection and classification and license plate reading cameras for video tolling.

Gene Conti state secretary of transportation is quoted: "We are proud that North Carolina will have one of the most technologically advanced toll operations in the nation. The implementation of this wireless system will provide motorists with seamless travel by allowing them to pay tolls at highway speed."

Proposals were received 2009 July 22 so the decision has taken 9 months. North Carolina is at the crossroads of northern hardcase Mark IV E-ZPass and southern sticker tag electronic toll collection, so the procurement is of wide interest.

The present order will cater to the the Triangle Expressway. Currently under construction it is a part of a belt route and is located on the west side of the greater Raleigh area. The overwhelming volume of traffic here will be local.

But Eden said other toll projects could attract major volumes of interstate traffic. Mid Currituck Outer Banks toll bridge in the northeast will be used heavily by Virginians, Pennsylvanians and motorists from the Washington DC area.

NC/I-95 tolls?

There are proposals for tolls on I-95 which carries heavy volumes of traffic with SunPass (Florida) and E-ZPass transponders.

Technology only enables interop, biz rules must mesh

North Carolina Turnpike will be looking to discussions soon to develop agreements and business rules for interoperability - with E-ZPass IAG and with Florida SunPass (Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas could follow).

These discussions will focus first on interoperabe transponder tolling and then on video tolling.

The business rules side will be quite a challenge.

The only dual mode transponders presently read by E-ZPass IAG are Mark IV's fusion tags that act as both IAG and TDMA, the TDMA mode being applied to weigh station bypass. This will be a first in accepting others' toll transponders, and a first in attempting to reconcile the different rules of the north and the south.

BACKGROUND: Triangle Expressway is a 30km (18.8 mile) 3+3 lane expressway costing about $1 billion that is under construction on the westside of the Raleigh metro area.

It will have eleven interchanges.

Tolling will be all-electronic at highway speed - no cash collected on the road. Gantries for the toll equipment will be positioned over the mainline segments between interchanges. Opening is scheduled for the first Parkway section end 2011, the whole to be open by end 2012.


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