Advertisement

Archive for Friday, December 4, 2009

Turnpike hopes to have Leavenworth County interchange open by month’s end

From inside one of the booths at the new toll plaza located at the intersection of Interstate 70 and Leavenworth County Road 1, Marty Wiltse, Kansas Turnpike Authority chief information officer, watches a monitor with a variety of views of the new toll plaza as tests are conducted to ensure the plaza's functionality before its opening. Wiltse explained that the plaza, which KTA hopes to open by the end of the month, will be fully unattended and will be managed remotely from KTA headquarters in Wichita.

From inside one of the booths at the new toll plaza located at the intersection of Interstate 70 and Leavenworth County Road 1, Marty Wiltse, Kansas Turnpike Authority chief information officer, watches a monitor with a variety of views of the new toll plaza as tests are conducted to ensure the plaza's functionality before its opening. Wiltse explained that the plaza, which KTA hopes to open by the end of the month, will be fully unattended and will be managed remotely from KTA headquarters in Wichita.

December 4, 2009

Advertisement

Turnpike changes in near future

Changes to the Kansas Turnpike include the addition of toll-taking machines. The new automated system will help cut down on labor costs and turnpike officials hope it will help expedite the flow of traffic once people get used to the system. Enlarge video

The Kansas Turnpike plans to open its new multimillion-dollar Tonganoxie/Eudora interchange east of Lawrence in a matter of weeks, once its new automated payment machines can reliably count loose change.

The machines — which cost $110,000 each — await new parts to address a glitch in their coin-processing systems, among only a handful of barriers waiting to be lifted before drivers get another option for entering and exiting the 236-mile pay-to-use interstate highway.

“We’re in the final testing, so I would say we’re a few weeks away,” said Marty Wiltse, the turnpike’s chief information officer, during a demonstration at the site Thursday. “Whether we want to open it the week of Christmas, or open it between Christmas and New Year’s, it’s hard to say.”

The actual ramps, tollbooths and signs have been in place for weeks at the turnpike’s intersection with Leavenworth County Road 1. The road itself recently reopened to through traffic, after being closed for its own reconstruction.

Wiltse said that the new interchange would continue to use the turnpike’s existing K-TAG system, to allow drivers to pass through the interchange without stopping. Sensors will read when a vehicle enters the turnpike, then charge the appropriate amount to a customer’s account once it leaves.

But the Tonganoxie/Eudora interchange will be the first on the turnpike to use Automated Toll Payment Machines, or ATPMs. Drivers who don’t have K-TAG will be steered toward these machines, where they will pay using a credit card or cash — either bills or coins.

No humans will be on duty, other than a team of collectors connected to the interchange via video.

“It’s like using an ATM at a bank,” Wiltse said.

Barbara Friedman, a senior project manager for HNTB, led design on the interchange and said it would be easy for drivers to understand — once they get used to the idea of using the machines.

“It’ll get people on their way quicker,” she said.

The Kansas Turnpike Authority intends to install such machines at a dozen other interchanges next year. Among them will be at the Lecompton interchange, at the western edge of Lawrence, and the soon-to-be-rebuilt East Lawrence interchange which cuts through the northern edge of North Lawrence.

Also slated: an ATPM at the turnpike’s East Topeka exit, at the “small plaza” where drivers exit onto the Oakland Expressway, Wiltse said.

The timing and scheduling for such machines will depend on their locations and traffic loads, he said.

Without the machines, he said, the turnpike would have needed to hire eight to 10 new collectors to keep the new interchange running. With the installation of machines, the turnpike anticipates reducing its personnel roster next year through attrition, not layoffs.

Comments

Joe Hyde 4 years, 4 months ago

I like having people take my money at the interchanges. You never know when they might help you with a weather or accident report, or maybe some helpful directions. Also, if somebody vandalizes the toll money machine...then what?

0

gccs14r 4 years, 4 months ago

KTA is a private company. When the 50-year bonds matured, the Legislature decided to let KTA keep the road.

STRS, this is what you get with privatization. Tolls are not taxes, they're user fees. You should be in full support of this.

0

JerryLHarper 4 years, 4 months ago

So why is it so great to install coin machines instead of adding 8-10 new jobs?

0

SettingTheRecordStraight 4 years, 4 months ago

Multi-million dollar tax collecting machines. What a waste. How sad.

0

purplesage 4 years, 4 months ago

A multi-million dollar toll plaza?. Didn't they promise to get rid of the tolls and the turnpike concept once the road was paid for? With coin counters that don't work? Like KCMO emergency radio system with dead spots or the Johnson County jail with doors that didn't work. Kind of makes you want the government to take over health care, doesn't it?

0

thebcman 4 years, 4 months ago

only in kansas do we spend over a hundred thousand dollars on a machine that doesn't work right.

0

gccs14r 4 years, 4 months ago

Oklahoma has had coin counters for decades. Maybe the KTA could have used the same machines. 'course the Oklahoma turnpikes let PikePass users sail through the toll plazas at 65 mph, too, instead of having to slow down to 20, so their whole system is generally more efficient.

0

Commenting has been disabled for this item.