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Former, Retired Turnpike Authority Employees Still Riding Pike For Free

Mass Pike TollSPRINGFIELD, Mass (WGGB) — New numbers indicate free toll rides for former MassPike employees are costing the state tens of thousands of dollars. The free rides are part policies left over from before the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority became MassDOT in 2009.

Previously, any Massachusetts Turnpike Authority employee was given a free Fast Lane pass to use at their will, and keep when they retired.

“It’s an anomaly,” MassDOT spokesman Michael Verseckes said. “It’s not a practice that we engage in any more.”

However, those who had the perk are grandfathered in. There’s over 400 current MassDOT workers who transferred from the defunct Turnpike Authority that enjoy free transponders they wouldn’t normally be given. 263 more retired employees enjoy the same.

“If that was part of the job, then that’s what they get,” James Holmes of Orange said. “That’s what they offered, you can’t take it back now.”

But they are being used. State records show MTA employees who transferred from MassDOT and the retirees tallied a combined 43,000 transactions between May 1st and October 31st of this year. That’s good for more than $69,000 in savings.

MassDOT says they have to enforce the laws that are on the books, but they still understand why some drivers might be frustrated.

“They are not huge a group but we certainly recognize the significance or the symbolism of it, and that being unfair to folks that everybody, if they go through a toll they have to pay a toll,” Verseckes said.

The Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation said in a statement “It is a clear abuse of the public trust, especially when the gas tax has just been raised.”

Locally, western Massachusetts tolls were hiked too.

“Everybody has to sacrifice a little bit and chip in and giving up a free toll is a small price to pay compared to someone who may really be struggling to pay that toll,” Michael Zdyrko of Orange said.

“For $70,000 it’s not a big part of our overall Massachusetts state government budget, but on a kind of micro level if we are looking at government spending and trying to cut waste $70,000 is wasteful in this situation,” Chris Sorenson of West Chesterfield said.

MassDOT says transponders are now only given out to employees who need them for work purposes. That includes, emergency vehicles, repair crews, and toll takers that need to cross busy toll plazas to reach appropriate parking spaces provided by MassDOT.

WGGB encourages readers to share their thoughts and engage in healthy dialogue about the issues. Comments containing personal attacks, profanity, offensive language or advertising will be removed. Please use the report comment function for any posts you feel should be reviewed. Thank you.

  • pixiedust

    Most jobs come with perks and benefits to offset pay. Customer service employees in retail facilities often receive discounts on their purchases. So is that unfair to the shoppers? Should that discount be passed on to everyone else? No. It’s a stipulation of the job. In the bigger picture, $69K is a drop in the bucket for all the wasteful spending within the government. These employees, current or retired, earned this as a part of their jobs and they deserve to continue to do so. I think their are much bigger problems to address.

  • tiredofthemedia

    I love how they say it cost the state 70k. I don’t really think it ” cost” the state. They should go to the grocery store at the checkout and watch the ebt swipes. Then lets see what costs the state. 70k what a joke. Maybe fire some azzholes making 400k a year running the pike. Oh how dare I mention that!

  • Westfield007

    This is likely not even an accurate number. Employees drive to work and can park prior to the toll and then go back home after their shift (which then charges them the maximum toll). They are given transponders mostly for work reasons, the retirement benefit is a perk of the job, who cares?