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T.I. Bridge plans to accept E-ZPasses by the end of 2014

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ALEXANDRIA BAY — The Thousand Islands International Bridge could start accepting E-ZPasses by the end of 2014, according to bridge operators.

T.I. Bridge Authority officials approved Thursday an implementation study to replace its outdated, 14-year-old toll system with an electronic tolling system and plans to break ground on the proposed project next fall.

TIBA hired Parsons Brinckerhoff, an international consulting and engineering firm based in New York City, for the $150,000 study and hopes to initiate the bidding process for the project as soon as March.

Officials said the bridge’s computerized toll system is obsolete. It was installed in 1992 and last upgraded in 1999.

The project calls for new toll plazas, which is why the construction work will take place in fall 2014, after most tourists and seasonal residents have left the area.

“We don’t want to do this in our busy months,” said Robert G. Horr III, TIBA’s executive director.

Mr. Horr said none of the 12 full-time toll collectors will be laid off.

Instead, the number of collectors would be reduced through attrition and reassigning of duties.

For the Bridge Authority, this major upgrade — which is likely to cost more than $1 million, according to officials — is a long-term cost savings measure.

Mr. Horr said electronic tolling is expected to cut transaction costs by half.

Processing cash transactions is expensive, Mr. Horr said, and comes to about 75 cents per transaction.

Currently, passenger — or two-axle — vehicles are charged $2.75 to cross the bridge connecting Collins Landing to Ivy Lea, Ontario. The commercial rate for trucks and buses is $6.50 for the first two axles and each additional two axles cost $1.50.

“It’s not just the labor costs for toll collectors. But somebody also has to reconcile it, wrap it and take it to the bank. That’s where the cost derives from,” he said. “Electronic transactions are much cheaper.”

Cash still would be accepted at toll booths, but once the new toll collection system is up and running, the Bridge Authority plans to offer incentives to encourage people to use electronic passes.

“It’s cheaper for us and more convenient for them,” he said.

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