Most members of the Mass. Turnpike Authority board haven't bothered to attend the public hearings on the Pike toll increases, but they still can't have missed the complaints of inequity that resounded from toll-payers west of Boston for years.
Most members of the Mass. Turnpike Authority board haven't bothered to attend the public hearings on the Pike toll increases before them, but they still can't have missed the complaints of inequity that resounded from toll-payers west of Boston for years.
The equity issue is especially relevant because the increases under consideration are earmarked to pay the debt service on the Big Dig, an expensive stretch of roadway most daily commuters from MetroWest don't use -- and shouldn't have to pay for.
Under the proposal the board gave initial approval to a few weeks ago, tolls would go up 25 cents in Weston and Allston-Brighton, to $1.25, and the one-way tolls on the Callahan and Ted Williams tunnels would increase by 50 cents to $3.50.
The Pike has no choice but to pay its bondholders, but the board does have options for where the money comes from. TPA board member Mary Z. Connaughton of Framingham expects to put forward a proposal Monday that would eliminate the increases at the Weston and Allston-Brighton tolls for drivers using FastLane transponder, while increasing tolls at the tunnels by $1.25 for FastLane users, $1.50 for cabs and those paying cash and 75 percent for larger commercial vehicles.
This option puts the burden on tunnel users, who actually use the Big Dig, instead of MetroWest commuters, who don't. It would also reward those using FastLane, which saves the Pike from relying on overpaid toll collectors.
Connaughton's number-crunching has already exposed a multi-million miscalculation that resulted in the firing of a Pike consulting firm, but Pike officials have thus far been silent on her proposed alternatives. They can prove they've been listening to the complaints about toll inequity by giving her proposals a full hearing -- and an affirmative vote.