Toll Equity Working Group Continues to Review Revenue Alternatives

Fri May 23, 2008 - Northeast Edition

BOSTON (AP) The Massachusetts Turnpike Authority decided to count the number of cars using the Zakim Bridge and other major arteries in and out of Boston in an effort to determine whether tolls on Interstate 93 make sense.

Turnpike chairman Bernard Cohen reiterated that “all options are on the table’’ as transportation planners try to cope with a budget gap — which board member Thomas Stephens said has been worsened by reduced driving amid record gas prices — and complaints of toll inequities from drivers who live west of the city.

A Toll Equity Working Group convened by the turnpike board reported it has reached no conclusions about how to equalize payments for drivers, but it presented a roster of 37 options. A final analysis is due in July.

Among the more controversial suggestions are adding north-and southbound tolls around metropolitan Boston. Commuters are taxed from the west if they use the Turnpike, but there is no comparable fee for those using I-93 to go through the city or Route 128 to go around it.

Among the ideas to collect money from the north and south are instituting tolls on the Leonard Zakim Bridge; in the Charlestown Tunnel at the bottom of the Tobin Bridge; and in the Tip O’Neill Tunnel under downtown Boston.

Alan LeBovidge, the Turnpike’s executive director, said he recently met with representatives of a Rhode Island firm that could conduct a precise traffic count using electronic monitors, rather than the more traditional rubber cords stretched across a road surface.

Cohen directed LeBovidge to make the count, although the contract may have to be bid.

“We want facts and figures in front of us as we move into June and July,’’ when the final recommendations are discussed, Cohen said.