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Mass. to get new turnpike toll system, subway cars

October 22, 2013

BOSTON (AP) — A long-promised plan to install a new electronic tolling system along the Massachusetts Turnpike and the Tobin Bridge will begin early next year, Gov. Deval Patrick said Tuesday.

Patrick said construction of the open-road tolling system — which does away with toll booths where drivers stop and pay cash — will begin in January with a testing phase on the Tobin Bridge and will go live in the spring.

Patrick made the announcement in an address to the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, where he unveiled a series of transportation infrastructure projects, including the purchasing of new subway cars and the straightening of a portion of the turnpike near the Allston section of Boston.

Patrick has been pushing to install the electronic tolling system since 2010.

Instead of paying tolls manually, the new system will collect the fees electronically through a driver’s E-ZPass transponder or by a new system that allows a camera to record a license plate number and send the registered owner of the car a bill through the mail. In 2012, there were 4.1 million cash transactions on the Tobin Bridge — more than 11,000 each day.

Patrick said the electronic tolling, turnpike straightening and subway car projects are part of a larger effort to boost economic growth and opportunity by expanding the overall capacity of the state’s aging transportation infrastructure.

“Few things are more frustrating than being stuck on the Pike on your way to work, or waiting for an overcrowded Red Line train at the end of the day,” Patrick said. “It is critical for us to invest in the means to move people ... more conveniently around the state.”

One of the biggest plans unveiled by Patrick is a $1.3 billion project by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority to replace and increase the capacity of the 44-year-old Red Line subway cars and the 32-year-old Orange Line cars.

The project will deliver at least 226 vehicles — 152 Orange Line cars, replacing the entire fleet of 120, and 74 Red Line cars with an option to increase the fleet to 132.

The new cars will feature increased capacity and additional seating, wider doors and advanced passenger information and announcement systems. The MBTA expects to award a contract for the cars by next winter, with the condition that the final assembly of the cars takes place in Massachusetts.

Patrick also announced a plan to straighten a nearly half-mile portion of the turnpike built in the mid-1960s. The goal of the project is to ease existing turns on both sides of the Allston-Brighton tolls and reduce congestion while opening up to 60 acres for future development.

Construction is set to begin in the fall of 2016 with completion in 2020. The estimated cost of the project is $260 million.

Patrick also announced plans to replace the century-old Clayton Street Bridge in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston over Veterans Day weekend. The bridge carries the Red Line over Clayton Street and was constructed in 1911.

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