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posted: 9/21/2012 5:30 AM

I-PASS transponders may be breaking their silence

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  • The Illinois tollway may reintroduce transponders that talk back.

      The Illinois tollway may reintroduce transponders that talk back.
    Daily Herald file photo

 
 

Do you ever feel that you and your I-PASS transponder just aren't talking anymore? Are you tired of those tense, icy silences on drives?

The Illinois tollway could have the solution to get you and your device on speaking terms again. Plans are under way to reintroduce transponders that beep when drivers successfully pay tolls and also communicate the status of I-PASS accounts, administrators said at a Thursday meeting.

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Ninety percent of customers surveyed in 2009 were interested in getting a "feedback transponder," Business Systems Acting Chief Shauna Whitehead said, adding that 38 percent were willing to pay for the feature.

Transponders cost the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority about $8 to $9. Feedback transponders could cost 25 percent more each, officials estimated.

But "it's not as simple as buying them and putting them in cars," Whitehead said.

New transponders will require replacing equipment that reads I-PASS information at toll plazas and possibly updating computer system technology. However, the readers are getting old and need to be replaced anyway, Whitehead said.

Whether the costs of new transponders and the related infrastructure will be passed on to customers who want them is undetermined.

Some of the original models of transponders the tollway offered did beep, but those were phased out in the early 2000s when the manufacturer stopped making them.

"We need to go back and do some analysis ... it's clear that people loved them, but it is an additional cost," Executive Director Kristi Lafleur said.

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