Indiana DOT reckon they'll save about half operating costs and motorists will save time and hassle with the conversion of a small Indiana-Illinois cash toll bridge to all-electronic toll (AET) collection. The last cash tolls were collected December 27, 2010 at the Wabash Toll Bridge, a small 2-lane 1950s steel truss span in the far southwest corner of Indiana on Indiana state route 62 (IN62) and connecting over the river with Illinois state route 141 (IL141). These 2-lane roads in among farmland (see map at bottom.)
Unlike many bistate bridges this one though located partially in both states is fully owned and operated by Indiana.
December 28 the single two-directional 2-person road center toll booth with its wide centrally supported canopy was removed by a demolition crew. The bridge closed for a couple of days while the demolition was done and reader equipment and cameras were installed and adjusted.
Readers are mounted on a small gantry spanning both lanes close to the beginning of the bridge. Cameras are pole mounted. (see picture nearby)
Started tolling Jan 1 2011
Jan 1, 2012 they began electronic toll collection using ISO 18000 6C sticker tag transponders from Federal Signal/Sirit.
Sirit is also supplying the readers. Cameras were from Transport Data Systems.
The new toll system was designed for INDOT by TRMI out of New York, a company with a large portfolio of bridge toll system work around the country.
First trip OK without transponder but must pay
The signage both directions says "Automated Tolling DO NOT STOP" plus "No transponder, go to www.wabashbridge.com".
Motorists who drive the bridge without a transponder will be tolled by license plate image, contrary to what we we initially wrote, and contrary to local reports. (CORRECTION)
Cher Goodwin of Indiana DOT's regional office says Indiana state police are in charge of enforcement and collecting camera based tolls on behalf of the DOT. Indiana police have arrangements, she says, with the Illinois state police and so have access to the motor registry databases of both states.
Trips without a transponder will - on the first trip - generate a toll bill in the mail to the registered owner of the vehicle plus a request that they get a transponder for future use, and the warning that if they don't they face a violation charge plus toll in future. The same vehicle recognized on second or subsequent trips without a transponder will generate a demand for the toll plus the standard violation charge.
Transponders have been available online, or over-the-counter at the bridge office near the toll point. That office will be closed around the end of the month to make it a fully unstaffed facility. Transponders are free to local motorists.
Cost of the conversion to cashless overall is $900k for Indiana DOT.
Economics of conversion
The economics of the project are explained by Indiana DOT officials this way.
At an average daily traffic of 4,000 vehicles paying 50c to cross the bridge they make about $730k/year in tolls (4,000 x $0.5 x 365). Staffing the toll booth 24/7 is 21 x 8hr shifts and with benefits and overtime was costing about $60/hour that's $520k/year, leaving just over $200k for maintenance. (NOTE:These are our back of the envelop estimates, not INDOT's -editor)
Eight toll collectors - some part-timers are out of work.
One of those Linda King was quoted in the local Courier & Press newspaper as saying it was an emotional sight for her to see the toll booth being removed because she'd worked in there for 15 years:
"I hate for it to happen, but it's progress, and it will be better for the commuters that come back and forth every day."
And for the bridge.
COMMENT: Spending 30.5c out of 50c tolls on cash toll collection costs didn't make much sense.
Revenue after toll collection is likely to increase to about $450k from the present $200k, after electronic collection and other project costs are factored in.
They have a bridge maintenance fund from toll profits, so there will be more money to look after the bridge.
Plus $250k/year savings on a $900k investment is a good rate of return.
BACKGROUND: Built in 1956 the Wabash Toll Bridge is of steel truss construction with total length of 2400ft (732m), longest span 427ft (130m), deck width 25.75ft (7.85m, overhead clearance through the truss is 16.5ft (5.03m).
Used almost exclusively by local residents - long-distance travelers Louisville KY, Evansville IN, St Louis MO use I-64 and cross the Wabash River untolled 20 miles (32km) to the north of the IN62-IL141 route the Toll Bridge is the southern-most crossing before its confluence with the Ohio River. The Wabash is a muddy meandering river that flows southwest across Indiana until its southern portion where it forms the border with southern Illinois.