Kilpatrick Turnpike at OKC goes cashless on Sunday
The John Kilpatrick Turnpike will phase out the cash toll starting Sunday, a move that state transportation officials say will improve traffic flow and improve driver safety.
“We are overdue to move forward and convert to cashless tolling,” said Tim Gatz, executive director of the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority. “Safety is the motivator. “
Under the Toll Authority’s cashless toll system, called PlatePay, drivers will not have to stop at a toll plaza and throw coins into a machine or hand over money to a toll employee. Instead, the cameras will capture photos of their license plates, and invoices will be mailed to them.
The cashless toll has no effect on the state’s PikePass system, officials said. More than 2 million vehicles are equipped with a PikePass, an electronic device placed inside the windshield of a vehicle that tracks movements through toll stations.
“PikePass remains the preferred way to pay your toll,” Gatz said at a press conference Monday.
Cashless tolling eliminates the need for drivers to stop at toll plazas, which can lead to traffic jams and collisions, Gatz said. More than 500 accidents have occurred at Oklahoma toll plazas in the past six years.
“When you’re dealing with a cash-based environment, the safety factor at these toll plazas is of particular concern,” Gatz said. “The safety aspect is essential to reduce the risk of accidents. “
The July 25 change to the cashless toll will only apply to the John Kilpatrick toll highway. Cashless systems will be deployed on other Oklahoma toll freeways through 2025, officials said. The state has more than 600 miles of tolls, according to the toll authority’s website.
No disruption related to switching to the cashless toll is expected, Gatz said. The lanes leading to the tolls will be closed.
“It’s very simple: don’t stop,” Gatz said.
Higher toll rate for some drivers
Drivers who don’t use a PikePass will pay 75% more than the current cash rate under the new cashless system. The fare hike is needed to support the new billing system, including back office functions, said Jack Damrill, communications director for the toll authority.
“The PikePass fare is cheaper,” Damrill said. “That’s why we encourage drivers to open a PikePass account.”
Once drivers receive an invoice in the mail, they can pay it online or by mail. Officials say they plan to use an online payment system that allows drivers to pay their bills online before receiving an invoice in the mail, Gatz said.
“We’re not done with just converting to a license plate-based system,” said Gatz. “We will try to provide an opportunity in the not-so-distant future… to avoid this further treatment.”
Agency to help toll workers
The move to a statewide cashless and toll-free system could be a big change for the dozens of workers who work at state toll plazas.
The toll authority has already started converting permanent toll plazas to temporary posts through attrition, Gatz said. The agency has more than 100 tollbooth employees with permanent jobs, and some may still be working when the cashless toll is fully implemented statewide in 2025, Gatz said.
The Kilpatrick Turnpike has not had a toll since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Damrill said, although other tolls still have.
The agency will help these workers find new jobs within the toll highway authority and may offer incentive programs for some to be trained for other jobs, Gatz said.
“We are looking for all opportunities to make sure they have a chance to continue working with the toll authority, just in another capacity,” said Gatz. “The people at the toll plazas, at many times, are the face of the toll authority.”
The toll authority was one of the first in the country to allow drivers to use electronic passes when it launched its PikePass system years ago. But the agency missed the 2016 federal deadline to synchronize its system with those of other toll roads in the country, The Oklahoman previously reported.
Oklahoma PikePasses operate on toll highways in Kansas and Texas under an agreement with those states, although several eastern states use the EZ Pass system. Oklahoma officials say they are working to get the state’s PikePass system up and running with others going forward.