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August 29. 2013 1:21AM

Don't want an E-ZPass subscription? Here's how you can zip through tolls


Drivers without transponders can now set up prepaid accounts and use the E-ZPass lanes at New Hampshire tolls. (Union Leader)

Drivers without transponders can now set up prepaid accounts and use the E-ZPass lanes at New Hampshire tolls.

Drivers who don't want to buy an E-ZPass transponder can still avoid backups at toll booths by prepaying their tolls online and then breezing through the E-ZPass or open-road tolling lanes.

"It is up and running and it's in time for Labor Day," Chris Waszchuk, turnpike administrator for the state Department of Transportation, said Wednesday.

About two of every three cars rolling through the state's toll booths already use E-ZPass transponders, a gadget that deducts money from drivers' accounts automatically and also provides a 30 percent discount on New Hampshire roadways.

For those not wanting to purchase a transponder for $8.90, motorists can set up an online account to prepay their tolls, but they won't receive any discount.

"We're just looking at this as another choice the customer can make," Waszchuk said.

People can establish a pre-pay account and register their license plate or plates.

Whenever a person drives through a toll plaza, a picture of the license plate will be taken and sent for processing.

The image will be matched with the license plate on the account.

The toll then is automatically deducted from the account balance.

A state vendor, Xerox, reviews the license plate images in El Paso, Texas, and processes the transactions, Waszchuk said.

He said the state doesn't have an estimate on how many will sign up for the pre-pay option.

Right now, anyone going through the tolls without a transponder will get his license plate photographed, followed by a bill in the mail for the cost of the toll plus a $1 administrative fee.

Bills unpaid for 60 days or longer also are assessed a $25 fee.

Nick Wallner, New Hampshire spokesman for AAA Northern New England, welcomed the move.

The national automotive club supports "anything that improves safety, such as reducing the occasional bottlenecks that present themselves at certain demand periods of time at toll booths and is in the interest of the motorists."

Currently, there are more than 520,000 New Hampshire E-ZPass accounts.

For the week ending Aug. 18, E-ZPass was used for nearly 1.58 million tolls for passenger vehicles, while 838,708 tolls involved cash transactions.DOT spokesman Bill Boynton said the pre-pay plan would be good only for New Hampshire tolls, unlike E-ZPass transponders, which can be used in more than a dozen states.

For the pre-pay tolls, a person can have multiple vehicles registered to the same account, which must be opened with a minimum of $1.

Accounts can be automatically replenished by credit card.

mcousineau@unionleader.com


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