The Massachusetts Turnpike is switching to all-electronic tolling beginning Friday night and officials are warning commuters to expect massive delays during construction.
"Think of this as a snowstorm, but think of it like it's going to snow twice a day, every day, for 22 days, both during your morning and afternoon commute," said Thomas Tinlin, highway administrator for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.
Massachusetts State Police Superintendent Col. Richard McKeon urged motorists to leave early, keep their gas tanks full, and their cell phones charged.
The electronic tolling went into effect at 10 p.m. Friday. Traffic is being diverted to the outer lanes of the pike while the old toll booths are removed. These toll booths will be demolished beginning Sunday evening.
Commuters can expect traffic for the next few weeks during construction. Higher traffic volume is also anticipated on side roads like routes 9, 20 and 30.
Massachusetts Secretary of Transportation Stephanie Pollack said the first month will be "particularly intense," and asked the public to be patient. In the long run, she said, it will make for a more convenient and safer driver experience.
"We all know construction disrupts traffic, and putting 23 construction zones on 132-plus miles of roadway all at the same time is going to have its challenges," Tinlin noted.
MassDOT has an online toll calculator that breaks down the current and future price between entry and exit points on the Massachusetts Pike. Drivers can either pay using an E-ZPass transponder or will be billed at home.
Drivers will have six months to get an E-ZPass transponder. During that time, they will be billed via mail for the full toll, but if they get a transponder they will receive a credit on their E-ZPass.
Phase 2 of the project will begin on Nov. 22 and will have traffic diverted to the center lanes while the outer toll booths are removed. This phase should be completed by the end of 2017.
Tolls on the Tobin Bridge going both ways take effect Friday as well, costing $1.25 each way.