The Ohio Turnpike’s current toll collection system has reached the end of its useful life. To prepare for this eventuality, the Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission (OTIC) adopted a Toll Collection System (TCS) and Customer Service Center (CSC) Strategic Plan on Dec. 18, 2017.
According to a statement by the Executive Director, Ferzan M. Ahmed, P.E.“The strategic plan to remove gates and install new technology is a bold step forward in convenience for our customers without introducing significant revenue risk to our financial position,” said Executive Director Ferzan M. Ahmed, P.E.
“On the operations side, we will gain significant efficiencies without wide-scale organizational changes. Customers have asked us to remove gates and we are preparing to do so.”
The adopted Strategic Plan is expected to responsibly provide operational efficiency and meet the needs of Ohio Turnpike customers today and into the foreseeable future.
The Strategic Plan includes the implementation of highway-speed E-ZPass lanes at the Eastgate and Westgate Toll Plazas.
The highway-speed E-ZPass lanes are often referred to as “Open Road Tolling” (ORT). ORT technology is being designed to allow E-ZPass users who are traveling the full length of the Ohio Turnpike to travel non-stop, at highway speeds (70 mph).
In addition, the Ohio Turnpike is beginning to construct two new mainline plazas with highway-speed E-ZPass lanes in Lucas County and in Trumbull County.
The modernized TCS is being designed to collect a flat rate toll at the Westgate and Eastgate Toll Plazas.
The flat toll rate will reflect the approximate cost of trips between Westgate and the new mainline Toll Plaza at milepost 49 and trips between Eastgate and the new mainline Toll Plaza at milepost 211.
As currently being designed, no tolls will be collected eastbound at the Eastgate Toll Plaza.
The addition of the two new mainline toll plazas will reduce the length of the traditional ticketed system and the total number of Toll Plazas from 31 to 24.
This design will allow trips for local travelers to enter and exit via Toll Plaza 13 (Bryan/Montpelier) or through Toll Plaza 39 (Delta/Lyons) and at or within Toll Plaza 216 (Lordstown) through Toll Plaza 232 (Youngstown) without traveling through a toll plaza.
It is anticipated that these existing Toll Plazas (Toll Plazas 13 to 39, Toll Plazas 215 to 234) will be reconfigured during a future demolition phase, but they will remain open for travelers to enter and exit the Ohio Turnpike, but not as turnpike toll collection interchanges.
In addition, the plan calls for the removal of toll lane gates from all Ohio Turnpike Toll Plaza entrance lanes and E-ZPass-Only exit lanes.
New license plate image capture cameras are planned for installation to catch any toll violators. Toll lane gates will be retained in non-E-ZPass exit lanes (cash and credit).
The Ohio Turnpike will continue to staff and operate its in-house E-ZPass Ohio Customer Service Center and plans to add staff to handle calls related to unpaid toll processing.
The Turnpike intends to award contracts with vendors for license plate image review, printing services, and collection of past-due invoices.
As part of the plan, the E-ZPass website (ezpassoh.com) and customer service center software system have been upgraded to provide improved customer service.
The plan is designed to improve the customer experience for E-ZPass users by eliminating gates in all dedicated E-ZPass lanes.
The design allows for E-ZPass customers to travel non-stop at low speeds (10 mph) in designated lanes at all remaining Toll Plazas (Toll Plaza 52 through Toll Plaza 209).
Furthermore, E-ZPass users who are traveling the full length of the Ohio Turnpike may travel non-stop at highway speeds (70 mph) once the recommended plan is fully implemented in 2023.
The Commission estimates it will save approximately $257 million in operating costs over 30 years because of the reduction in the number of Toll Plazas from 31 to 24, the elimination of toll gates on entry, and a projected increase in E-ZPass usage.
These cost savings are contemplated to include a reduction in utility and maintenance costs at the nine reconfigured toll plazas.
The capital implementation cost for this plan is currently estimated to be $204 – $232 million. Some preliminary construction began in the 4th quarter of 2019 and concluded in the 4th quarter of 2022, subject to Commission approval of the contracts to design, acquire and build the necessary infrastructure.
Operation of the new Toll Collection System is anticipated for deployment in 2023.