Those Metal Contraptions on the Mass Pike Will Soon Take Your Money

They'll start collecting tolls on October 28.

mass pike tolls

Cars pass under toll sensor gantries hanging over the Massachusetts Turnpike in Newton. / Photo via AP/Elise Amendola

A few days before Halloween, those new metal contraptions hanging over the Mass Pike will start taking your money.

Electronic tolling is scheduled to be activated on October 28. The new toll sensor gantries are expected to replace the existing human-powered and automatic toll plazas on Interstate 90. Instead, the overhanging sensors will automatically charge cars as they pass under them through signals from E-Z Pass transponders. Drivers without transponders will be billed by mail after their license plate number is photographed by gantry cameras.

The new sensors don’t require drivers to slow down, and officials assert the new system will cut down on traffic, help save gas, and work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

That will come with a cost, though, and prices differ depending on if you have an E-Z Pass or not. Massachusetts transportation officials revealed the new proposed rates on Monday, and the Boston Globe reports the new collection method is expected to rack up higher fees for almost half of the trips made with Massachusetts-issued E-Z Passes.

For example, driving from Westborough to Weston will increase from 70 cents to 95 cents. But from Weston to downtown Boston, tolls will decrease from $2.00 to $1.70. Drivers traveling from the New York border to downtown Boston currently pay $6.60. Under the new system, they would pay $6.15. The placement of the new gantries will cause different tolls to change in price depending on where they’re located.

“This is not a toll increase,” Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack said in a briefing on Monday. “This is a rate setting process designed to address the fact that we are collecting the same amount of tolls in a different set of locations.”

The new system gives the cheapest rates to drivers with an E-Z Pass issued in Massachusetts. Drivers with transponders from other states, like New Hampshire or New York, will pay slightly higher tolls. Drivers categorized as “pay-by-plate” will pay the highest tolls to cover the cost of the billing transaction.

The automatic toll gantries have been criticized for the amount of data they will amass. They’ll include a “hot list” feature that has the ability to alert police when cars with specific license plate numbers or transponders pass through them. Some critics are worried about their privacy when it comes to the data the gantries will collect and store.

“There’s a real possibility for abuse and misuse with this kind of technology,” Kade Crockford, the director of the Technology for Liberty Project at the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, told the Boston Globe.

MassDOT officials insist the “hot list” feature will only be used in emergencies, such as Amber Alerts.

Privacy criticisms, along with questions about the new toll rates, will be addressed in multiple hearings to be planned for September. The MassDOT’s board of directors will formally vote on fees on October 6.