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Officials: Pike toll increases may be higher than planned

Posted by Ralph Ranalli August 15, 2007 01:31 PM

REGION/TRAFFIC

Massachusetts Turnpike Authority officials acknowledged yesterday that they are reviewing whether toll increases scheduled for January will be adequate to cover expenses at the financially strapped agency, under pressure from two board members who are warning that a steeper increase is inevitable.

Under a plan approved in the late 1990s, tolls are tentatively scheduled to rise on Jan. 1 from $1 to $1.25 at the Allston and Weston booths and from $3 to $3.75 at the Ted Williams and Sumner tunnels to help cover $1.4 billion in Big Dig debt, reporter Michael Levenson of the Globe's City & Region staff reports today.

"But as of now, the exact amount of the toll increase to fulfill these bond obligations has not been determined," Turnpike spokesman Mac Daniel said in a statement.

The agency, which relies on tolls for 78 percent of its revenue, is facing a $26 million increase in debt payments next year, in addition to $25 million in deferred maintenance and the challenge of continuing to pay $12 million annually for Fast Lane discounts. The planned toll increase is expected to raise only $25 million a year.

Board members Mary Z. Connaughton and Judy M. Pagliuca said that these expenses, which were not anticipated in the 1990s, will drive tolls higher and put an increased burden on motorists. Connaughton said she could not predict how much more tolls would have to increase, but said the increase could be substantial.

Read more about the toll increases in the online version of today's Globe.

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