Supervisor Dannell Ortego helps Jonnie Chouest open a new GeauxPass account for a free toll tag at the Customer Service kiosk located on Hwy. 3235 in Golden Meadow. Photo courtesy of DOTD.
Since the installation of the new Leeville Overpass toll machines last month, lane congestion and wait times have seemingly increased causing drivers with and without a GeauxPass toll tag to wait in long lines of traffic.
The state Department of Transportation and Development had to replace the previous toll machine that was destroyed in August when hit by a large truck. Officials added a second machine as well, both built with a protective barrier, to help alleviate the wait time for motorists travelling to Fourchon or Grand Isle without a GeauxPass.
“I have a toll tag and have had to wait 30 or so minutes in traffic just to get into the GeauxPass lane because people are taking so long in the toll booth lane. I had a co-worker who had to wait an hour and a half last week. My biggest concern is what will happen during tourist season and Tarpon Rodeo weekend. We’ll be flooded with people and I just can’t imagine how bad it’ll be,” said Ginger Cheramie, a worker in Port Fourchon.
“Port Fourchon has seen an increase in activity that has increased the volume of traffic through the toll gantry. It is a wonderful boom for our state’s economy and we will work diligently to accommodate and support the Port’s activity,” DOTD Communications Director Jodi Conachen said.
DOTD is working to develop plans to increase the storage capacity for the cash lane to avoid the queue impeding tag holders, she said.
Henri Boulet with the LA 1 Coalition blames the delays on people learning how to use the payment machine. He continued to say that people without a GeauxPass should have payment ready, preferably coins, and know the number of axles their vehicles possess before getting to the machine.
In order to encourage motorists to use the GeauxPass tag system, the LA 1 Coalition, a non-profit organization, has agreed to cover the $12 fee charged to new subscribers. The promotion is giving away 100 toll tags per day, up to 900 total tags (while supplies last). The giveaway is available only at the Golden Meadow customer service center located at 1821 South Alex Plaisance Blvd. (Hwy. 3235).
“Our hope is by doing this those 900 drivers will be removed from the right lane and lesson the congestion that leads up to the GeauxPass lane,” Boulet said.
The DOTD advises non-tag expressway users to pay attention to advance signs leading up to the toll gantry, predetermine vehicle classification and cost before reaching the booth, take time when approaching the lane so their vehicle is within arm’s reach to the machine, make sure bills are in good condition so they will be accepted, select the vehicle type from the chart next to the keypad and remember to press OK before inserting payment and when at all possible use credit / debit card payment or coins rather than bills.
“Drivers who use coin payment take as little as 30 seconds to pass. Those who have to fumble with crumpled bills can take several minutes to go through”, Boulet said.
The general consensus between the coalition and state agency is that the quickest way to use the expressway is through the express lane with a GeauxPass and that the more motorists that use it, the less traffic will back up.
“I have to be at work at 5:30 in the morning and even though I have a toll tag there have been days when I was still sitting in traffic at 5:45 just waiting to get onto the express lane,” said Fourchon worker Aaron Guidry.
To add to the headache, motorists who received outstanding fines during the summer due to technological issues with fine notifications and auto-draft errors have been receiving hearing summons to plead their cases to a judge in hopes of having their fines waived.
Jami Guidry, one of the toll tag users who is awaiting her day in court next month, continues to use the GeauxPass lane but with frustration.
“I just don’t understand why we are having so many problems with this toll bridge. It’s not like it’s a new concept. I now leave my house 15 – 20 minutes earlier every morning to avoid the traffic jams,” she said.
Next month customers will begin receiving notification letters when credit card information expires and / or their account has failed to auto-replenish, said Conachen. She continued saying that customers are ultimately responsible for ensuring their account remains in good standing but that the DOTD is developing guidelines and alternatives to work with customers with past due accounts and violations. More information will be available later this month.
The bottom line seems to be that the best way to lessen the backup in traffic would be to ensure that you have a toll tag in your vehicle.
To qualify for the free toll tag, customers will need a valid driver’s license or state ID, a permanent vehicle license plate number and a minimum of $30 (depending on vehicle type) opening account balance along with a valid email address. For questions regarding the promotion, contact GeauxPass customer service via email at email@example.com or by phone at 866-662-8987.
Posted on Sun, March 3, 2013