Massachusetts Turnpike Authority considers reviving, increasing tolls

| 6/23/2008

Officials with the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority are exploring revenue proposals including possible toll increases, state-funded discounts for local Boston commuters and the possible reinstatement of tolls on routes where tolls were rescinded in the 1990s.

The Authority’s Board of Directors met Friday, June 20, to discuss future financial plans and ongoing measures to trim their budget. Discussions included the mounting debt incurred by the Central Artery/Tunnel Project known as the Big Dig.

The turnpike is reportedly $2 billion in debt, with 58 cents of every toll dollar collected going to pay for repairs and maintenance for the Big Dig, members of the Toll Equity Working Group reported Friday to the full board. The group is a committee made up of board members.

Group members said toll payers continue to subsidize toll-free routes as well as a discount program for local Boston commuters within the Massachusetts Highway System.

“Toll policies considered unfair tend to generate feelings of inequity among affected toll payers, which then leads to legislative involvement – e.g., mandated discount programs – and a reluctance to raise tolls as needed,” stated the group report.

Tolls were rescinded at some interchanges in 1990 and 1996 along the Western Turnpike, which has led to a loss of about $100 million per year, the group report stated.

One of the revenue ideas is to reinstate those tolls. Officials are also discussing raising current toll rates within the system.

– By David Tanner, staff writer