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Debate delays E-ZPass in N.H.

CONCORD, N.H. -- It looks like the new E-ZPass electronic toll system will not be running by Memorial Day in New Hampshire.

Transportation Commissioner Carol Murray said there probably will be a delay while the Executive Council debates how much of a toll discount E-ZPass users should get.

Murray said once the rate is set, it will take about a month to open customer service centers to sell the electronic transponders drivers will need to use the system.

''It's getting pretty tight to achieve implementation by Memorial Day," Murray said.

The council is responsible for setting the toll rates on the state's turnpike system. Until the rate is set, the Transportation Department cannot begin marketing the transponders, which allow a driver to pass through the tolls without stopping.

The transponder records the pass through the toll and automatically deducts the fee from the driver's account.

A debate over whether to keep using highway tokens and on how much of a toll discount E-ZPass users should get is slowing things down.

The House recently passed a bill to eliminate tokens by Jan. 1. The measure is now in the Senate. The council, however, wants to keep tokens longer to give drivers time to adjust to the new system.

Murray wants tokens eliminated after E-ZPass is up and running. She said the state could offer E-ZPass users between a 40 percent and 50 percent discount without putting the state turnpike fund in jeopardy.

All money from tolls goes to maintaining and expanding the turnpikes.

Councilor Peter Spaulding is opposed to doing away with tokens and giving a discount to E-ZPass users. ''If you do away with tokens, you're giving those without E-ZPass a 100 percent increase in tolls," he said.

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