The Toronto Star
Wednesday, August 27, 1997

Free ride on 407 will come to an end Oct. 14

by Daniel Girard

The free ride on Highway 407, Canada's first electronic tollway, will end Oct. 14 - the day after Thanksgiving, Transportation Minister Al Palladini said yesterday.

And despite more than six months of glitches in getting the toll system to work, Palladini insists Highway 407 is going to be "a big success".

Sales of transponders - electronic devices that automatically detect highway use for the purpose of billing motorists - are nearly 50 per cent higher than originally projected and more than six times the expected number of motorists have been using the highway - for free - since it opened June 7, Palladini told reporters yesterday.

But Palladini said many of those motorists would keep using the road, even when the toll charge is applied.

"This highway is going to make money", he said.

The province has been losing an estimated $2 million a week in potential revenue because the tolling system has been unable to handle the high volume of vehicles that do not have transponders and must have their licence plates read electronically to be billed.

The glitch in the $72 million Hughes/Bell tolling system has forced an upgrade of about $10 million in the equipment, which wasn't expected to be required for at least a year.

Palladini said that despite the delay, the province expects to make at least $60 million in the first year, rather than the $40 million originally expected.

"The delay in opening for tolling was not because of the equipment not working", Palladini said. "It was the fact that the highway was getting a lot more traffic than initially had been projected."

The highway was originally expected to get 55,000 trips a day, increasing to 106,000 during the first year. However, it has topped 300,000 trips per day.

Although usage will drop by half or more once tolls are charged, Palladini said, that will still likely see a 50 per cent higher rate of traffic than projected.

About 55,000 transponders have been issued so far. The government was hoping to have 40,000 in use when tolling started. Motorists without transponders will be charged the regular toll plus $1 per trip.

Copyright © 1997 by All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.