Fast Lane discounts could be cut in Massachusetts

| 8/22/2008

As part of an effort to increase revenue and avoid toll rate increases, officials with the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority want lawmakers to consider rescinding toll discounts currently offered to drivers who have Fast Lane accounts to pay their tolls electronically.

Turnpike Authority Executive Director Alan LeBovidge said Thursday, Aug. 21, that state lawmakers should consider rescinding the 25-cent discounts at the Allston-Brighton exchanges and the 50-cent discounts at the Sumner and Ted Williams tunnels.

A spokesman said LeBovidge outlined a plan for cost reductions, substantial use of reserves, and his legislative request to end Fast Lane and residential toll discounts.

“At the end of fiscal 2009 we will have done everything possible” to avoid a toll increase, LeBovidge stated at the meeting according to Spokesman Klark Jessen.

Cost reductions are necessary because Boston’s $14.8-billion Central/Artery Tunnel Project known as the Big Dig has gone over budget and continues to face problems with leaks. State officials and contractors involved in tunnel construction also face lawsuits relating to construction materials and the death of a motorist who was crushed by a falling concrete tile in July 2006.

Previous measures to save money have included hiring freezes, reducing employee overtime including state trooper overtime, and eliminating six senior-level positions.

Officials also increased tolls in January an additional 25 cents per axle for trucks and 25 cents per passenger vehicle.

LeBovidge said another increase would be necessary in 2009 if the authority does not find more cost savings.

“We have made tremendous strides on cost efficiencies but still need to do more to restore confidence,” he stated.

Gov. Deval Patrick has also discussed consolidating the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority with other state agencies under one highway department to save money.

– By David Tanner, staff writer