By Dana Reilly
PBN Staff Writer
(Updated, Tuesday, 9 a.m.)
JAMESTOWN - The R.I. Turnpike and Bridge Authority decided last week to pardon drivers who use the newly open road lanes on Newport's Claiborne Pell Bridge without an E-Z Pass.
RITBA added open road tolling on the Pell Bridge with dedicated lanes for E-Z Pass on June 22 and are pardoning drivers who misused the lanes due to unfamiliarity with the new system.
David Darlington, chairman of RITBA, told Providence Business News that about 600,000 people have used the Open Road Tolling lanes, and of those, 8,000 drivers did not have the proper transponder.
Darlington said RITBA initiated an amnesty period after thirty-four people called and said they were confused and went in the wrong lane.
There are four lanes in each direction with manned tolls on the bridge, and two center lanes (one in each direction) for ORT use.
“Rather than have folks deal with the hassle, we’ll go easier on the process until we're over this learning curve” Darlington said.
According to Darlington, 65 percent of traffic goes through the ORT lanes already.
If drivers use the E-ZPass lane by accident, without a valid transponder, he or she will not be charged the $5 per axle toll fee. During the grace period, the toll remains $2 per axle across all lanes.
The grace period will end on Aug. 1 when RITBA will enforce its unpaid toll schedule.