By Conrad Dudderar
Yukon motorists who normally pay tolls using cash will notice a big change starting July 25 on the John Kilpatrick Turnpike.
A new cashless system called PlatePay will take a picture of the license plate on any vehicle without a PIKEPASS. An invoice will then be sent to the vehicle’s registered owner.
“We are transitioning away from a cash-collection system,” OTA spokesman Jack Damrill said. “We’ll start with the Kilpatrick Turnpike. Over the next four to five years, we will convert the rest of the turnpike system across the state.”
OTA officials chose the Kilpatrick Turnpike – which has several exits in the Yukon area – to begin the changeover to the cashless PlatePay system.
More than 90% of Kilpatrick Turnpike travelers use PIKEPASS to pay their tolls with the rest paying by cash at toll booths.
“It’s a high-commuter traffic turnpike,” Damrill explained. “With that much traffic, this will allow us to ‘get our feet wet’ in a cashless system and make sure we have all the bugs worked out.”
Oklahoma is one of the last states to transition from a cash to a cashless turnpike toll system.
“Most other states have already converted,” Damrill said. “This is really what the majority of our customers want. They don’t carry cash anymore and have a hard time finding the change necessary to pay the coin machines, which don’t work half the time.”
The PlatePay rate will be much higher than the PIKEPASS rate because of the cost to collect, the OTA spokesman emphasized.
“Now we’re going to mail invoices out,” Damrill added. “There is some image review cost associated with that and the hiring of additional back-office staff.”
The Kilpatrick Turnpike toll rate –from Interstate 40 to Interstate 35 both directions – totals $5.30.
“That is not the typical route of our customers on the Kilpatrick,” Damrill said. “They do the shorter routes, the $1 route, the $1.15 route.
“We will have ways for people who receive an invoice to go online or use an app to pay that invoice early and receive a substantial discount off that PlatePay rate.”
SAFETY AND CONVENIENCE
Transition to the PlatePay system ultimately will save the state money because the OTA will not have to rehabilitate or build new toll plazas. The existing coin machines are outdated and replacing them is cost-prohibitive.
“We can’t find them anyone,” Damrill said. “They’re $80,000, and a toll booth also is around $80,000.”
The new cashless PlatePay system will make Oklahoma’s turnpikes safer.
“We have numerous accidents at our toll plazas across the system,” Damrill noted. “Anytime you have a congregation of vehicles merging in and out of traffic, it creates a safety hazard.”
In October 2020, three people were critically injured when the ambulance they were riding in crashed into the Newcastle toll plaza.
PlatePay also will provide convenience for motorists traveling Oklahoma turnpikes.
“People will be able to get to their destination faster without having to wait in line,” Damrill said. “It will save us money, in the long run, because they won’t have to be idling there and it saves on the environment.”
Turnpike users who still pay tolls with cash are again being encouraged to sign up for a PIKEPASS because that is the cheapest – and most convenient – way to travel. Volume discounts are available.
It costs $20 to open a PIKEPASS account, and it all goes toward tolls the user incurs on turnpikes.
There are more than 2.1 million PIKEPASSes on the road today.