Massachusetts Turnpike tackles spending, toll violations

| 5/14/2008

Facing pressure from the governor, the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority has reduced spending and has saved $14 million so far in 2008, a spokesman said.

The conversion of four cash toll lanes to electronic tolling at the Allston-Brighton Exit saved the authority $500,000, spokesman Mac Daniel told Land Line. He said the authority will continue to expand the Fast Lane electronic tolling system in the future at the request of Gov. Deval Patrick and turnpike administrators.

Patrick and Massachusetts Turnpike Authority Secretary Bernard Cohen laid out what the governor called a blueprint of change in July 2007 to make the authority more transparent and accountable.

Recent cost reductions have included reducing employee overtime by $800,000; eliminating six senior-level positions totaling $1 million; eliminating a healthcare provider that cost $1.7 million; purchasing bulk electricity to save $1.4 million; limiting the use of outside consultants to save $8 million; and reducing state trooper overtime by $600,000.

Patrick said the cost reductions are helping, but the authority needs to do more.

“To date, the total savings from all of these and other savings initiatives is approximately $14 million,” Patrick announced May 9. “It’s a good start. But it’s not enough.”

Future savings will come from a clampdown on users who have unlawfully taken advantage of a toll discount program.

The authority recently deactivated about 2,400 transponders that motorists were using to obtain discounts intended for residents of certain areas near the Sumner and Ted Williams tunnels. A check of addresses showed that a number of motorists had moved out of the area but continued to use transponders to pay 40 cents per trip instead of $3.50.

Daniel said that neither the residential toll assistance program nor the alleged violations occurring within that system apply to commercial vehicles.

– By David Tanner, staff writer