Agreement on E-ZPass Contract Reached
New Jersey Transportation Commissioner John J. Haley, Jr. today announced that the contract for the E-ZPass program has been signed by the members of the Consortium of toll authorities and the selected vendor, MFS Network Technologies, Inc. of Omaha.
The project is valued at more than $500 million for the design, construction, operation and maintenance of the system, which includes installation of electronic toll equipment in more than 700 toll lanes, the installation of a fiber-optic network along more than 400 miles of the toll road authorities’ rights-of-way, and the establishment of a customer service center and a violations enforcement program.
"This agreement represents the largest, most innovative transportation procurement in the world," Governor Christie Whitman said. "It is a unique public-private partnership that advances our goal of a seamless, regional electronic toll system that will unify the northeast under one integrated system. It also means that Garden State motorists will soon be able to reap the benefits of advanced technology at no cost to the taxpayers."
"I would like to thank Commissioner Haley and the members of the Consortium for working so hard to make this goal a reality. The extraordinary effort that went into this contract demonstrates their strong commitment to making trips on the toll road facilities convenient," the Governor added.
The project will be paid for with revenues from violations enforcement fees, the lease of excess fiber-optic capacity to telecommunications companies, and additional technology marketing programs.
The toll road agencies will not be required to make any down payment for the system. Construction and administrative costs will be financed with $300 million in variable and fixed-rate loans arranged with private lenders and administered by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority. The loans, which will be paid off by the five agencies as revenues are received from the violations fees and fiber-optic facilities leases, will cover expenses until the revenues are sufficient to make the project self-sustaining.
Once the system is paid for, the toll road agencies will also share in the revenues from violations, fiber-optic facilities leasing and marketing.
"This public-private partnership is a great deal for the region’s toll agencies, for the region’s businesses, for the region’s drivers and for the region’s taxpayers," said Commissioner Haley. "The financial models on which the revenue estimates are based are sound. They have been reviewed by numerous outside experts, who agree that they are valid."
The Commissioner added that while the entire project will take 22 months to complete, the E-ZPass capability will be phased in on several of the toll roads during that period. It is already in use on Port Authority of New York and New Jersey bridges and tunnels and is available for buses on the Atlantic City Expressway.
"Because transportation is New Jersey’s lifeblood, E-ZPass will help ensure that our toll roads and bridges are not an impediment to a strong and vibrant economy," the Commissioner said. "It will improve the movement of goods, reduce congestion and pollution at the toll plazas and provide a level of convenience and efficiency that drivers demand and deserve."
Edward Gross, the Executive Director of the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, the lead agency in the Consortium, said the financing plan for the program represented "21st century thinking for 21st century technology."
"Working together, the five agencies involved in these complex contract negotiations have taken the time to craft a financing plan that delivers a state-of-the art regional ETC system at no cost to the taxpayers. That has never been done before in the United States and it is a significant achievement," Gross said.
The E-ZPass electronic toll collection system will eliminate the need for cash, tickets or tokens to change hands at toll booths. Instead, vehicles are equipped with a small electronic transponder that transmits both vehicle and account information through an antenna or reader located in a toll lane equipped with the technology. The data is processed and the appropriate toll is debited from the customer’s pre-paid account.
The Regional Consortium for Electronic Toll Collection includes the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, the New Jersey Highway Authority (operator of the Garden State Parkway), the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the South Jersey Transportation Authority (operator of the Atlantic City Expressway) and the Delaware Department of Transportation.
The Consortium members are also part of the InterAgency Group (IAG), which includes eleven toll agencies in New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Pennsylvania. In 1995, the agencies, after extensive testing and consideration, selected the ETC equipment supplied by Mark IV Industries of Amherst, New York, for use by all toll agencies in the region, thereby providing inter-operability and maximum convenience to motorists traveling within the five states.
Reciprocity among the IAG agencies will allow E-ZPass tag holders to maintain an account with one agency while using the facilities of all the agencies. Reimbursements will be handled between the agencies involved, making the transaction transparent to the customer.