May 23. 2013 12:26PM

65 mph OK for E-ZPass drivers with opening of new lanes at Hooksett toll plaza

HOOKSETT – Motorists using E-ZPass can now travel at 65 mph as they go through the tolls on Interstate 93 with the debut of Open Road Tolling (ORT) lanes.

Crews pushed hard to get the ORT lanes open for the anticipated 500,000 tourists arriving this Memorial Day weekend, according to DOT spokesman Bill Boynton.

Gov. Maggie Hassan, Transportation Commissioner Christopher Clement, state Sen. David Boutin and other dignitaries were on hand Wednesday morning for a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the opening, which took place about 4:30 pm. Wednesday.

The $22.5 million project, which included bridge repairs at Cross Road, Hackett Hill Road and Ramp A-B preventing them from becoming "Red List" bridges and was paid from the tolls millions of drivers pay each year, resulted in four ORT lanes – two northbound and two southbound on I-93.

The ORT lanes are in the middle of the toll plaza and separated from the other cash/E-ZPass lanes by 1,800 feet of concrete barriers, Boynton said.

Each year, more than 25 million vehicles pass through the tolls. During peak tourism seasons more than 80,000 a day might pass, according to the DOT.

The new lanes are expected to alleviate delays and traffic back-ups, and save motorists a collective total of 268,000 hours a year waiting in line to pay.

Hassan said safety will be improved, as open-road tolls historically reduce accidents by as much at 60 percent. Air quality and fuel efficiency also will improve, with an estimated yearly savings of up to 465,000 gallons, she said.

"And overall, the quality of life for commuters and all Granite Staters will be improved by these new high-speed facilities," she said. "Less time in traffic means more time for customers in local businesses, more time enjoying our beautiful outdoors, and more time spent with family and loved ones."

State DOT Administrator Chris Wasczuk said traffic was moving smoothly Thursday. However, he cautioned drivers not to stop should they accidentally use the lanes and don't have an E-ZPass.

"Stopping or slowing down for any reason in those lanes is potentially a serious safety issue and is highly discouraged," he said.

People without E-ZPass who forget to pull off and pay a toll should continue through the monitors. They will be traced through their license plates and sent a bill for the toll and a $1 service charge, Boynton said.

The Hampton toll plaza on I-95 has had open-road tolling for three years, but it is a new experience for those who drive the I-93 corridor.

"We think it will be well-received," said Boynton. "You save time, you save money. There's no lines, no slowdowns, no lane changes, no stopping."

For more information on E-ZPass, visit Drivers of "passenger type" vehicles get a 30% discount with their E-ZPass.