Wikipedia declares DNT and E470 both "first" in electronic tolling

August 20, 2012

2012-08-19: Wikipedia will tell you in its entry for E470 tollroad in Denver that tolling began on its first segment from I-25 south of Denver to Parker Road July 15 1991 "making it the first highway in the US to implement electronic tolling."  Wikipedia also will tell you that: "The Dallas North Tollway was the first toll road in the United States to implement Electronic Toll Collection technology, with the introduction of the TollTag in 1989."

Well Wikipeds, your dates are right. And July 1989 is a bit before July 1991, so yah got a mistake on E470 being "first"!

First tollroad to deploy electronic tolling (ET) in the US was Dallas North Tollway 30 July 1989.

But it wasn't the first toll facility to deploy electronic tolling. That was the Crescent City Connection toll bridge (CCCB) in New Orleans LA. They deployed transponder tolling with an Amtech (later TransCore) passive backscatter hard case 915MHz ATA system from January 4th 1989.

The old bridge over the Mississippi was six months ahead of the first toll road to use electronic tolling - the Dallas North Tollway - which was the result of Amtech (later TransCore) offering Texas Turnpike Authority (later to become North Texas Tollway Authority) to install the system and operate it for free, and to remove it if they didn't like it.

They loved it and it stayed and grew, way beyond most expectations.

1990 saw another Amtech ET installation in New Orleans LA - at the Lake Ponchartrain Causeway toll plaza.

Clearly potential of ET lay in open road, highway speed configuration

All these were single lane installations in existing toll plazas with traffic constrained by posted speeds of 10mph usually. Motorists with the new transponders were driving through lanes constrained by concrete curbs 11ft apart and toll booths. Many toll collectors had to cross the lanes to get to and from their booths.

Clearly to take advantage of their capabilities electronic toll transponders had to be deployed in an open road highway speed setting where traffic needn't slow down - a straightish section of expressway of 2x2 lanes at least with normal shoulders. Several new tollroads in design in the late 80s were laid out for open road tolling (ORT) and opened in the 1990s.

E470's first segment's toll Plaza A near Parker south of Denver seems to have been the first effort at open road tolling (ORT.) It opened to traffic 1st June 1991 and began collecting tolls July 15.

E470 was first ORT but...

About six weeks later, September 1, the Oklahoma Turnpike opened three new tollroads with ORT toll plazas - on the Kilpatrick, Cherokee, Chickasaw Turnpikes.

You could say that E470 was first with highway speed ORT, just managing to get in ahead of Oklahoma.

Except for one thing. It was a system with serious problems.

E470 Public Highway Authority did manage to collect tolls with their initial open road tolling setup but they were more reliant than they wanted to be on cameras.  The RFID transponder-reader system from a firm called X-Cyte didn't work as well as hoped and they had too many non-reads. The system software from MFS at Parker Road plaza created major difficulties. They were eventually dumpedand a local group K2 Software completely rewrote the code.  see 2004 report

So while they did open road electronic tolling they had sufficient problems with the technology and the installation they had to virtually start over.

By the time they came to open other segments in 1998 they had dumped the X-Cyte/MFS equipment in favor of California style Title 21 9I5MHz passive backscatter RFID gear. They got seven years out of the original tags and readers, so you can argue either way whether it was a success or failure. (REVISIONS HERE)

Oklahoma had proven system, Denver had to redo

Oklahoma opened with the Amtech 915MHz RF system that had been proven in Texas and Louisiana.

It worked well enough for them to use the same system for almost 20 years, only recently switching to sticker tags.

So we'd say Oklahoma was first to make ORT work for tolling, even if the Coloradans started a few weeks earlier.

Next iteration - cease collecting cash on the road, "let 'em all fly by"

First all-electronic toll (AET) facility in America - no cash collected on the road - was the 91 Express Lanes in Orange County California which first collected tolls in the last days of 1995 (Dec 28 1995.) It was also a first as a tollroad within a freeway and for applying differentiated and adjusted tolls by time of day to masnage volumes to those which would allow free flow traffic conditions to be maintained.

407ETR in Toronto was the first full, multiple interchange highway to do AET in North America - the first segment opened for traffic took tolls 14 October 1997.

Houston's Westpark Tollway was the first AET tollroad in the United States first collecting tolls 28 May 2004.

Around that time several systems were planning to convert all their mainline plazas on multiple tollroads to ORT while keeping cash on the outsides - Houston, Dallas, Chicago, and Miami.

Houston was first to do that, though the Governor of Illinois claimed his state's was the first.

And there were other tollers who were doing the occasional AET or no-cash interchange... who was first there we have no idea. We'd welcome submission of dates when no-cash interchanges first tolled.

COMMENT WELCOME: That's how we reconstruct the firsts, but there are are other ways of looking at it, and while we've done our best to nail down the narrative above, there may be readers out there with better information. Please let us have it - editor.


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