E-ZPass economics leave New Hampshire running short

| 7/22/2005

There’s trying, and then there’s trying too hard. New Hampshire’s turnpike authority is now officially the latter.

To help tout its new E-ZPass toll system on the turnpike, Gov. John Lynch and the turnpike’s executive council set the price for transponders – which every vehicle must carry to use the system – at $5.

So what’s the problem? Well, nothing, except that the cost of a transponder is actually $27, which has caused the state to cover the $22 difference, according to The Associated Press.

That cost, coupled with two other key factors, has left the state with a rather hefty bill – a $4 million bill, the Boston Globe reported. The key factors in the equation are:

  • unexpected public response resulting in 100,000 E-ZPass transponders already being purchased since they became available in mid-June; and
  • the fact that many drivers who bought the $5 transponders don’t travel the toll routes every day and therefore don’t contribute large amounts of tolls to help offset the costs.

Another factor adding to the red-ink column for the venture is the $5 to $6 it costs the state to maintain each E-ZPass account per month.

“You present numbers that are staggering,” said Sen. Chuck Morse, R-Salem, during questioning of Transportation Commissioner Carol Murray before the state’s Senate.

However, Murray said the department’s budget problems predate the implementation of E-ZPass, and that this new debt represents “minor money” in the department’s overall financial situation, the Globe reported.

“Long term, we’re OK, but next year is tight,” Murray said. “The next year is scary.”

The state Senate voted to increase the cost of the transponders after more research is done on the system.

– By Aaron Ladage, staff writer