By Jacqueline Bennett


Since before I can remember I have been traveling the Massachusetts Turnpike. For as long as I can remember, manned toll booths on the Mass Turnpike have been an accepted way of life. That changed over this past weekend when manned toll booths were closed then demolished, relegated to a bygone era as the Commonwealth converted to E-Z pass or pay by plate.


"Stockbridge Christmas On Main" Dec 2015.

“Stockbridge Christmas On Main” Dec 2015.

The drive north from Connecticut to Massachusetts has always meant readying a bag of coins and single dollar bills to keep in the front seat in order to minimize the time it took to pay a toll keeper. As well, it meant keeping one’s patience in check in preparation for potentially long lines of vehicles taking their turns to stop and pay, even figuring the wait into travel time particularly on holidays such as returning from the Berkshires on Columbus Day Weekend. Then there were the trips up to Butternut Basin in winter, day trips for shopping at the Lee Outlets, or “Stockbridge Christmas on Main Street” – which I attended just last December.


Preparation for a big blast of air that hit as the driver side window was opened to pick up the toll card or turn over the cash was another part of the Mass Pike drive – a blast of air welcome in summer and dreaded in winter. I can still recall my dad’s outstretched arm as he approached a toll keeper followed by his customary words “have a nice day” on our many visits to Aunt June’s in Stoneham, just outside of Boston.


Really, it should come as no surprise that Mass Pike manned toll booths are now dinosaurs, and that more folks have lost those jobs. Gradually, the once multiple toll keepers were reduced and replaced by machines that could catch coins and advance traffic more quickly. Proponents of closing the manned toll booths consider it a transportation advancement. Technology now allows for photos to be snapped of license plates as vehicles enter or exit the turnpike so for those without E-Z passes, subsequently a bill can be dropped in the mail. Apparently the system is similar to snapshots that for the last several years could record a motor vehicle violation; viewers of the old Home Improvement television show will remember when “Tim the Tool Man Taylor’s” wife caught him in a fib after one such photo arrived in the mail.


It has been said change is the only certainty in life. Soon enough I’ll purchase my E-Z pass and eventually head towards Sturbridge where I’ll pick up the Mass Pike for a northerly adventure. However – there will no longer be any need to carry on my dad’s tradition of “have a nice day“.