OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority is working with employees losing jobs as the system goes cashless.
The agency is phasing out its option to pay tolls with cash, replacing that with a PlatePay system in the next four to five years.
Cameras will record the plate and send the vehicle owner a bill that is about 75% higher than the cash rate.
Customers will still be able to pay with a PikePass, where tolls are deducted from a prepaid account. PikePass rates are lower than current cash rates.
Currently, the agency has 108 full-time toll collectors, seven supervisors and three toll operations managers, said Jack Damrill, OTA spokesman.
The agency will help employees transfer to other jobs with OTA or in state government if they qualify, Damrill said.
Damrill said an overall cost for the PlatePay system was not available because the OTA has been upgrading equipment to make the change when it did maintenance.
Officials at the OTA are hoping the higher fee will incentivize more people to open a PikePass account.
“We are encouraged by what we are seeing for our cash customers opening PikePass accounts after the announcement of cashless travel because this will allow them to travel the cheapest way possible on our system,” Damrill said.
Damrill said the toll cost for PlatePay customers will be higher due to increased back office work and the cost of mailing the invoices.
There will be a $5 service charge if the PlatePay bill is not paid within a month, Damrill said.
The agency is also working on app to allow the PlatePay customer to pay a reduced rate if remitted before the invoice is received, Damrill said.
If the bill goes unpaid after several months, the agency can put flag on the vehicle registration, requiring the bill to be paid before the tag can be renewed.
Transportation Secretary Tim Gatz said the overarching reason for doing away with cash is safety, citing accidents as drivers leave the mainline to pay and then return.
“We are one of the last to convert,” Damrill said. “Pretty much every other state has gone cashless; 36 states have tolling. We are one of the last to convert.”
The OTA piloted the program at the Peoria Elm interchange on the Creek Turnpike. According to the OTA, 88% of those using it already paid by using PikePass.
The Gilcrease Expressway in Tulsa is being built with a cashless toll collection system, Damrill said. It is expected to open in 2022, he said.
The OTA this month approved a PlatePay rate for the Kilpatrick Turnpike in Oklahoma City.
The authority’s goal is to convert the John Kilpatrick Turnpike (including the Southwest John Kilpatrick corridor) to all-electric tolling by July 25, according to the agency.
“Once that road is completed, it is anticipated that the Authority will convert all its roads to All-Electric over the next five years,” according to the agency’s budget.