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Toll Roads Chief Explains New Cash-Free System

Cash toll booths like these will soon be a thing of the past, predicts Transportation Corridor Agencies CEO Neil Peterson. Patch file photo
Cash toll booths like these will soon be a thing of the past, predicts Transportation Corridor Agencies CEO Neil Peterson. Patch file photo
The toll road boss spoke Monday before the Mission Viejo City Council with updates on new cash-free programs that eliminate the need to stop and pay a toll.

Neil Peterson leads the Transportation Corridor Agencies, which oversees the 241, 73, 133 and 261 toll roads. He said over 250,000 drivers use these toll roads each day—roads with a collected asset value of over $5 billion.

About 80 percent of toll road drivers use FasTrak transponders, Peterson said, while about 15 percent pay in cash. But by tracking drivers' license plate numbers, the TCA now offers five ways to avoid cash tolls completely, with or without an account.

Here are the five cash-free Orange County toll road options:
  • Use a FasTrak transponder. These are pre-paid and come with a small monthly fee. They work with any toll road in the state.
  • Sign up for an ExpressAccount. These are transponder-free accounts that can be paid in three ways: 1) Pay with a pre-paid account; 2) charge a credit card each time a toll is paid; 3) pay an invoice for all tolls used over the course of a month. ExpressAccount payments have no monthly maintenance fee, but the invoice option costs $2 per invoice.
  • Without any account at all, pay online within 48 hours to avoid a fine.
Peterson said the new systems are designed to bring more drivers onto the toll roads.

"I'm convinced a lot of people don't use our roads because they're just concerned—where do I get off, where do I get on, will I have exact change?" he said.

The CEO said the TCA hopes to upsell ExpressAccount users with FasTrak transponders.

Councilwoman Cathy Schlicht objected to the use of license plate scanners to collect the tolls. She said she was concerned the state was not adequately protecting the private information of its citizens.

"Absolutely, that's a huge concern," Peterson said. "We're a public agency. We operate like a private company but we're a public agency. That (license plate) information is carefully guarded. There are restrictions on how it can be used. Nobody can come in and buy our mailing list or anything like that."

Councilwoman Rhonda Reardon asked why the extension that would connect the 241 to the I-5 in the south has not yet been completed.

Peterson said the TCA must build a consensus with environmental groups to reach an agreement that would allow the southern extension. He said future technologies like driverless cars could make that possible.
imcjl January 08, 2014 at 09:32 AM
The reason more people don't use it is the ridiculous cost of tolls, particularly when there are backups and you are still paying $6 from La Paz to Jamboree on the 73, or that same amount on off-peak hours when non-toll routes like Sunday evening are wide open. Simple gouging. They should encourage drivers to take it in off-peak hours with greatly reduced tolls (like $1 or $2). Also, you can spend 5 to 10 minutes in line at unmanned toll booths trying to get the machines to accept crumpled paper money and get 5lbs of Susan B Anthony dollar coins in return. Cost + delays = frustration is why I don't use it more.
Shawn Gordon January 17, 2014 at 07:34 PM
I do everything possible to avoid the toll roads because of the cost. When they first started the costs were reasonable. I don't see how with at least 10 times more drivers that the tolls need to be 5 times what they were. they'd get even more drivers if they dropped the tolls. This new cashless system is going to really turn off ad-hoc drivers of the tolls. The security concerns are massive, it is so easy to do any kind of stalking and trending analysis based on stored license data. I somehow think any savings they'll get from this will be totally lost in the first lawsuit resulting from the hacked data being used for nefarious means, and if you think it won't happen, you're fooling yourself.

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