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Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority considers installing credit card machines at toll booths

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OGDENSBURG — The Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority is considering adding credit card machines to its toll booths on the Ogdensburg-Prescott International Bridge to make cross-border travel more convenient.

But at their meeting Wednesday, OBPA board members questioned whether credit card transactions would mean a significant decrease in its yearly toll revenue.

Bridge toll revenues equate to approximately $2.5 million of the agency’s $6.4 million annual budget. Truck tolls depend on the vehicle’s number of axles, but typically do not exceed $10, OBPA Deputy Executive Director Frederick S. Morrill said. The toll per two-axle automobile is $2.75.

Mr. Morrill estimated that about 200 passengers per year attempt to cross the bridge without cash.

Based on the number provided by the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority, Mr. Morrill estimated that 5 percent, or $7,600, of revenue, would be lost to credit card transaction fees. In a worst-case scenario, Mr. Morrill estimates revenue could drop by $32,000 if credit card use becomes popular.

“We probably lose about $7,600 when we sell commuter cards or a book of cards to the restaurants,” Mr. Morrill said. “So we are giving revenue when we do those things, but I think the convenience might justify spending that.”

The authority is considering marketing its debit and credit card payment options only to truck drivers.

“Ten cents of every $10 transaction is minuscule,” Mr. Morrill said.

The OBPA cannot increase its toll rates without state approval. State approval could take up to three years, board members said.

“I am not sure this is a good program, considering the loss we may inherit here,” Vice Chairman Frederick J. Carter Sr. said. “We’re not here to lose money.”

Based on presentations made by four separate vendors, Mr. Morrill said, staff members recommended contracting its debit and credit card transaction services with Key Merchant Services, a division of Key Bank, for three years.

OBPA board member Gavin M. Regan is an employee of Key Merchant Services, and recused himself from the discussion.

“They provided us with the lowest cost option,” Mr. Morrill said. “The cost of interchange is 10 cents per transaction. There is no cost for terminals, and no monthly support fee, and the regional representative is local.”

Board members ultimately decided to table the issue to see if the contract could be shortened from three years to a one-year trial basis. Board members will revisit the issue at their May 1 meeting.

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