Editorial: High-speed lane a good idea

Open-road tolling on the Turnpike is a progressive, safe and efficient way to manage highway traffic.

The new high-speed toll lane at the Kansas Turnpike Authority’s terminal near Bonner Springs is a welcome and long overdue addition.

Westbound drivers with a K-Tag transponder can maintain their interstate speed and pass through the single lane to the far left at the KTA’s eastern terminal. Vehicles that do not have a K-Tag transponder must drive to the right side and collect a turnpike ticket before they can proceed.

The single westbound high-speed lane — called open-road tolling — opened on Aug. 24. Further expansion is coming. When the toll plaza reconstruction project is completed in November, there will be two westbound lanes of open-road tolling for drivers getting on the turnpike and two for eastbound drivers exiting the turnpike.

Next to get open-road tolling will be the eastern Topeka toll plaza at mile marker 182, where traffic merges with Interstate 70. Construction on the Topeka project is scheduled for 2018 and budgeted at $17.6 million. KTA’s southern terminal at mile marker 4, near the Oklahoma border, will get open-road tolling in 2019.

It’s not only K-Tag transponders that work on the Kansas Turnpike. The 19-state NationalPass, Oklahoma’s Pikepass and Texas’ EZ Tag, TxTag and TollTag also work.

Other states — including neighboring Colorado and Oklahoma — have had open-road tolling for years using transponders and license-plate recognition systems. But the system is new to Kansas drivers, who are working to adjust to the new K-Tag lanes, which used to be on the far right side of the toll plaza.

“We know it’s kind of a new thing,” said KTA spokeswoman Rachel Bell. “Everybody’s trying to figure out where they need to be.”

The new system is designed to mirror regular traffic flow in which faster traffic moves to the left and slower vehicles to the right.

Open-road tolling should reduce traffic congestion at the toll plazas and encourage more residents to use the K-Tag transponder. Moving the open-road tolling lanes to the left is safer as it mimics normal traffic flow and reduces lane crossing and merging out of the toll plaza.

Open-road tolling will improve travel on the Kansas Turnpike. Let’s hope the remainder of the toll plaza reconstruction happens on the projected schedules.