SAULT STE. MARIE — The International Bridge Administration (IBA) says the summer peak traffic season progressed without major congestion issues from the 2-year, $8.9 million Toll Plaza construction project.
“We are very pleased with the safe and smooth traffic flow through the toll plaza project,” said IBA General Manager Phil Becker. “A lot of planning went into the temporary toll collection lanes and booths to minimize customer inconvenience – and that shows in our customer satisfaction survey results.”
In late July and early August, IBA toll attendants verbally surveyed bridge customers. The results, with 750 surveys conducted:
- 72 percent of customers were satisfied with how toll traffic was handled.
- 70 percent said the IBA was doing a good job communicating with the public on the project and potential traffic impacts.
“We appreciate our customers’ patience during the project,” Becker said.
The authorty is replacing the 52-year-old toll plaza and office building to improve customer service, plaza safety, and efficiency. They want to keep the customer satisfaction level high as the project moves to the next phase.
“Our goal is to get the first two permanent toll booths installed and operational in October,” said IBA Chief Financial Officer Peter Petainen. “Then we will use the new booths to serve toll customers while we remove the temporary booths and lanes.” IBA officials hope to have all six new booths installed and functional before the new year.
Petainen said the installation of the new toll booths is a complex and time-consuming process.
Excavations 15-foot-deep were needed for six toll canopy footings. The area beneath the new toll booths also had to be excavated in order to install a series of large precast concrete segments joined to form the utility tunnel. The tunnel will hold power, communications and computer lines, along with other equipment.
“The excavation was too deep for the confined workspace along the temporary toll lanes,” said IBA Project Engineer Karl Hansen. “So the contractor had to drive steel sheeting to create a temporary earth retaining wall along the temporary toll lanes.”
In addition to the physical improvements, there are updates behind the scenes as well. The new toll booths will be equipped with new toll collection hardware that will allow new software to be installed in early 2015.
“This 10-year, $2.3 million expenditure for computer hardware and software will allow us to offer additional conveniences for Prox Card customers, like online access – including account activity and statements – and online credit card deposits,” Petainen said. “The Prox Card is very popular with our customers and we are looking forward to this major service enhancement.”
All existing Prox Cards will be compatible with the new system, so new cards will not need to be purchased to use the enhanced features.
October marks the 10th anniversary of the Prox Card automated toll program. The IBA will mark the anniversary, and the coming upgrades, beginning with a limited edition release of the Prox Card in early 2015.