Pikepass customers who haven't exchanged their old transponder units for windshield sticker tags will soon discover they no longer work.
The old units will start being deactivated next week and won't work when motorists drive through the Pikepass readers on the state's toll roads, which likely will result in drivers getting a ticket, members of the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority were told Thursday.
Authority members also were told of plans over the next several years to install cable barriers in the medians of the state's 10 turnpikes where no concrete or cable barriers are in place. Cable barriers are designed to reduce collisions that involve vehicles going into oncoming traffic.
Tim Stewart, deputy director and chief operating officer of the Turnpike Authority, said a fifth and final notice about the Pikepass change was mailed this month. About 88,000 account holders, or about 14 percent of the 590,000 Pikepass account holders, have not switched to the sticker tags, he said. About 104,400 hadn't complied as of August.
“We began sending the fifth and final notice on Nov. 5 of this year,” he said. “Thirty days past receiving notice, those old passes will no longer work. Beginning around Dec. 5, those old passes will be deactivated, and they will systematically be deactivated.
“Our hopes are that we get responses before we have to turn those passes off,” Stewart said.
Stewart said some customers may not have responded because they rarely drive on the turnpikes.
What to expect
Motorists without windshield sticker tags who go through a Pikepass reader will have their vehicle's license plates photographed, he said. Pikepass customers will be billed at the cash rate instead of the discounted Pikepass rate. Those who don't have their vehicle tag on file with the Turnpike Authority and aren't identified as a Pikepass customer will eventually be sent a violation notice.
Stewart said the Turnpike Authority initially will send a courtesy notice, but if motorists don't respond or continue to refuse to get a windshield sticker, they will be sent a violation notice, which carries a $25 fine per event.
“We've taken multiple progressive steps to try to get them to convert to the sticker tag,” he said.
The Turnpike Authority started using windshield sticker tags in March 2011. Customers were notified they could exchange their old units for the tags at no cost.
Unlike the old Pikepass units, which could be moved between vehicles, customers are required to have a sticker tag for each vehicle.. The tag stops working as soon as it is removed from a windshield.
The Turnpike Authority switched to tags because the hard-case units are no longer being produced. It's expected the turnpike will issue about 1.4 million windshield stickers.
The sticker tags should solve a problem with hard-case units that are switched between the same account holder's vehicles. Also, when the hard-case units aren't mounted correctly, electronic readers at the turnpike gates can misread or not read the tags.
More cables planned
Oklahoma Transportation Secretary Gary Ridley told Turnpike Authority members the number of deadly crossover accidents has decreased as more cable barriers are installed. The number of people who have died because of crossover accidents on highways maintained by the state Transportation Department dropped from 39 in 2007 to four in 2011, he said.
“Every life is important, and one loss of life is too many,” Ridley said.
Nine people died on the state's turnpikes in 2011 because of crossover accidents, he said. Six were killed in one wreck.
“These fatalities on the turnpike system will be reduced,” Ridley said. “The single most direct reduction of fatality accidents … is putting in these cable barriers.”
Cable barriers are to be installed on turnpikes where no barriers are in place, with priority given to areas where crossover accidents have occurred, he said.
Authority members approved three projects Thursday to install cable barriers. A $7.8 million contract was awarded to Duit Construction to install 27 miles of cable barrier on the Cimarron Turnpike in Noble, Pawnee and Payne counties, and a $1.9 million contract was approved for TTK Construction to install five miles of cable barrier on the H.E. Bailey Turnpike in Cotton County.
More cable barrier projects are included in the turnpike system's capital improvements plan for the next five years.