Work was being finished last week for the new electronic toll system on the East Lawrence turnpike exit.
If all goes well, commuters on the Kansas Turnpike soon will be able to cruise through the toll booths without stopping.
Tom Wurdeman, the turnpike's division engineer, said new equipment for K-TAG, the electronic toll collection system, was being installed during the past two weeks on the East Lawrence turnpike interchange's exit lane.
Turnpike employees installed the system's electrical connections and communication lines last week, at a cost of about $30,000 to $40,000.
"The overhead gantry or truss that you see out there is for the electronic toll collection reader," Wurdeman said.
The antenna on the truss reads a device, an electronic "tag," or transponder that commuters will be able to place on their windshield behind their rear-view mirror.
To use the system, commuters will pay ahead of time for their tolls.
The antenna will read the tag, determine if the motorist has prepaid the toll and, if so, will deduct the toll from his prepaid account. The gate will open, allowing the motorist to pass through without stopping.
At the East Lawrence interchange, the north exit lane has been set up for the bypass lane.
The existing toll booth will be left there for occasional use by regular toll collectors when more drivers than usual are coming to Lawrence for special events at Kansas University, Wurdeman said.
"At those events, we won't have as many electronic toll customers, so we will need to open that second lane again," Wurdeman said.
Wurdeman said turnpike officials soon would make the official announcement for the opening of the K-TAG system. However, it's expected to be operational in about two months throughout the 236-mile toll road.
Meanwhile, bids are to be let this week for the major remodeling project on the West Lawrence turnpike interchange.
The $2 million to $2.5 million project will include building two new K-TAG bypass lanes, a new regular toll plaza and canopy and a new office building. The project also involves some widening on McDonald Drive.
The project is scheduled to begin June 5 and should be finished in November, Wurdeman said.
"West Lawrence is going to be one of our bigger commuter interchanges, and that's one of the reasons we're rebuilding it," Wurdeman said.
Every state that has set up electronic toll systems such as K-TAG have found that commuters and truck drivers are enthusiastic about them, Wurdeman said.
He predicted that all the commuters, as well as 30 percent of all turnpike traffic, would eventually use the system.
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