SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) - Western Massachusetts drivers had the chance to tell the Mass. Department of Transportation what they think about bringing back the Turnpike tolls between exits 1 and 6.
Lawmakers already approved a transportation finance bill that will reinstate tolls to the western end of the Massachusetts Turnpike. That means starting October 15th, drivers will pay $1.75 to go from the New York border to the Springfield-291 exit.
Tolls are coming back to the Massachusetts Turnpike starting October 15th, and some drivers are upset. During the public comment period, some drivers said, “This state has to take it out on the people.”
These drivers are concerned the new tolls will force people to either cut spending somewhere else or avoid the Turnpike.
Scott Burns of Springfield told 22News, “Do I take the Pike or do I go the back way, which adds on to people's commutes? And it adds wear and tear to many of our local roads, which will only increase the cost.”
There's some good news for drivers. The tolls for short-distance trips, between exits 4 and 5 or 5 and 6, will disappear again in 2017, when the new All Electronic Tolling System is installed.
MassDOT Highway Administrator Frank DePaola said, “We are not going to have any tolling locations between exits 4 and 6. What we will have a toll location west of here and east of here, so those inter-city movements will be free again.”
State officials told 22News the tolls collected from exits 1 through 6 will go to re-paving the western portion of the highway, upgrading guardrails and repairing bridges.
The DOT expects to make about $12 million a year from the tolls, and even though the western Turnpike is defined as exits 1 through 14, Highway Administrator Frank DePaola said most of the money from the new tolls will stay here and fix the stretch between exits 1 and 6.
Drivers told 22News as long as the money is being used to fix our roads here in western Massachusetts, they don't mind paying the tolls.
“Especially in the spring time, after the weather and everything like that, I hit the potholes all the time, so as long as the money is hopefully being used to better the towns and the state,” said Courtney Pearson of Chicopee.
Frank Depaola, Highway Administrator at MassDOT, told 22News, “There is a significant need for improvement in the segment between exits 1 and 6, so we feel the money we collect out there will be invested in the roads. So you could almost say what you pay will be used on the roads they drive on.”