BOSTON — Gov. Deval Patrick plans to recommend switching to an electronic tolling system in Massachusetts, embracing new technology that would cost about $100 million and result in more than 320 toll collectors losing their jobs.
On the heels of a Boston Herald report yesterday morning, Patrick and Transportation Secretary Richard Davey confirmed the administration’s toll plan and said they were not looking immediately to raise toll amounts or institute new tolls as part of their long-term transportation funding strategy.
Patrick described the plan, which he said his administration will discuss in greater detail early next month, as a step to create a more “efficient and modern” highway system and help to eliminate congestion on the Massachusetts Turnpike where drivers for years have experienced lengthy delays when traveling around the holidays.
“I think it’s going to save us some money and above all make the commute and the use of the Pike more convenient,” Patrick said.
House Speaker Robert DeLeo said he always has concerns about laying off workers, but also said measures such as the governor’s tolling proposal might be necessary to address needs in the state’s transportation system.
“We’ve got a transportation system that’s probably going to need — I’m told at this point anyway — some $1 billion so, as I told some of the members, I’m open to any type of suggestions as we move forward,” DeLeo told reporters yesterday after meeting with Patrick and Senate President Therese Murray.
DeLeo said he knows any solution will have to not only address the financing of the MBTA, but also infrastructure investment needs in all regions of the state. He said he has reached out to business leaders to solicit feedback, and is still in the process of listening to their revenue suggestions.
“Anytime that we’re talking about the need to lay off people, so to speak, that gives me great concern, especially in difficult economic times. On the other hand, what I read about or heard about the plan of the governor was he was stating he wasn’t going to lay off people as much as they would leave according to their retirement and what not,” DeLeo said. “But we’ve got a very serious problem in terms of how we’re going to solve a $1 billion shortfall in our transportation system and again, for the sake of the economy of Massachusetts, we’ve got to bring this up to the new century.”