From the Fall 2017 Port Newsletter
Two significant customer convenience enhancements are rolling out for the Port’s BreezeBy system as part of the larger Electronic Toll Collection (ETC) system upgrade the Port initiated over a year ago. A new web portal for BreezeBy customer account management will be added to the Port’s website in late fall, and later, BreezeBy customers will be able to use their home accounts for toll travel around the Western U.S. and parts of British Columbia.
The Port plans a two-phased approach for the customer web portal launch, with accessibility for existing BreezeBy customers occurring in late October, and functionality to open new accounts online coming in late November. BreezeBy customers will receive more information and account tools in the mail once the web portal launch is complete.
The ETC system upgrade occurred earlier this year, and the new web portal underwent beta testing this past summer. The upgrade includes a transition to multi-protocol sticker-style transponders, enhanced security, and the more robust customer account management web portal on the website. Customers will have access to their accounts for real-time account deposits and transaction activity. (The old system updated individual account adjustments every 24 hours.)
Further, the system upgrade enables the Port to make the switch to more universal, lower cost transponders. Now, the cost for a new regular vehicle transponder is $5, a significant savings from the $15-$30 original models. The moveable transponders will be phased out over the course of the next 6-18 months. The Port plans to phase out all old transponders eventually in order to join a regional movement of interoperability in the western region – enabling toll payment via BreezeBy for other toll roads and bridges throughout the west that use the same system.
The interoperability, requested by the U.S. Department of Transportation, divides the U.S. into four regions, each with its own toll system protocol. The Western region protocol (called 6C) allows drivers to travel from San Diego, CA to Vancouver, BC and as far east as Denver, CO using the 6C protocol, which the Port’s new technology matches. This technology allows tolling authorities to pass tolls between entities from a customer’s home tolling authority. “That means BreezeBy customers would be able to use their accounts to pay tolls in the Seattle-Tacoma or San Francisco Bay areas, as well as many other western U.S. locations,” says Fred Kowell, Port chief financial officer, who is overseeing the transition. “It’s especially a benefit to trucking companies that travel extensively and will more easily be able to manage toll payments in various regions.”
Three other U.S. regions share protocols for interoperability. The Northeast region has offered interoperability for close to 10 years, while the Mid-West rolled out its specific technology more recently. The Southeast region’s system is still under development.
The Port will continue its currently policy regarding transponder purchases. Each household may receive one free transponder, and additional transponders can be purchased for the $5-$27 cost, depending on type. Issuance of new transponders began August 1 after new lane loops were installed and passed systems tests.
The new BreezeBy software operating system was designed, developed and implemented by P-Square Solutions, a custom software development and consulting company with expertise in tolling systems, specifically for the Port of Hood River. P-Square Solutions will continue providing tolling system support services to the Port.