New Hampshire toll tokens continue to cause problems on turnpike

| 1/27/2006

New Hampshire Transportation Commissioner Carol Murray is once again making headlines for what some have called a hasty removal of the token payment system from the state’s turnpike.

According to The Associated Press, state Attorney General Kelly Ayotte told lawmakers this week that they would need to pass a law addressing the antiquated tolling system, which was discontinued on Jan. 1. Ayotte said the cost of cutting checks for each customer who wants a refund would be prohibitive, while forcing them to enroll in E-ZPass would require a new law.

Customers of the turnpike were incensed when they learned that their tokens were no longer usable, and could not be turned into the state for cash or credit on the roadway’s new E-ZPass automated tolling system. However, Murray’s announcement means any sort of rebate will require a law to be passed in the legislature.

According to The Boston Globe, turnpikes in New Hampshire have been in use for more than 200 years, but the modern version of a toll token began in 1955. The original “A” toll token was worth 10 cents, and a larger “B” token was worth 15 cents. The current version of the token, which began being used in 1985, is worth 25 cents.

This is not the first time the new E-ZPass system has seen controversy in New Hampshire. When the system launched in September 2005, Gov. John Lynch and the turnpike’s executive council originally set the price for transponders – which every vehicle must carry to use the system – at $5, to help boost their popularity.

Problems arose, however, when it was discovered that each transponder actually cost $27, meaning the state had to cover the $22 difference, according to The Associated Press.

That cost, coupled with several other key oversights in the system’s start-up costs, left the state with a rather hefty $4 million bill, The Globe reported.