International bridges revamp tolling system

SAULT STE. MARIE — The Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge to Canada has unveiled its new toll system.

For the first time in 10 years, the international bridges that connect Michigan to Canada in Sault Ste. Marie and Port Huron are getting a system overhaul on their toll system. Officials said the new system will save costs for operating the bridges as well as bring benefits to drivers.

On Sept. 28, the Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge and Blue Water Bridge officially unveiled the toll system, which was introduced to the bridges in August. The previous toll system had a contract which expired on Aug. 31 this year and was not renewed. The bridge associations decided to use this opportunity to upgrade and modernize all of their tolling systems in a way that helps save money.

The International Bridge Administration, which operates the Sault Ste. Marie bridge, Federal Bridge Corporation, which operates the Canadian side of the Blue Water Bridge, and the Michigan Department of Transportation, which operates the Michigan side of the Blue Water Bridge, worked together to develop this new system.

The International Bridge in Sault Ste. Marie, which connects Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, and Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.
The International Bridge in Sault Ste. Marie, which connects Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, and Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.

More:International Bridge slated to receive tolling systems update

By working together under one contract to upgrade all three bridge systems, officials said the companies all save costs. The bridges have saved a total of 36 percent of upfront costs and are projected to save an additional $7 million in the next 10 years.

"The three entities can share the development costs," said MDOT communications representative Dan Weingarten. "This way they're sharing the expenses of developing the system and installing it at all three locations."

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The $9.3 million contract includes updating the bridges' online account system, including website and account standardization, a new pass system that will eventually replace toll cards, and mobile phone apps to more easily manage toll accounts and payment options.

Drivers will now be able to transition to an electronic tag system. This new tag is a sticker, smaller than a cell phone, with a chip inside that connects to an online account. The sticker is placed on the windshield inside of the car and as it passes through the toll, the toll system will automatically read the chip inside the sticker and charge the account it's connected to.

Officials said this new system is meant to increase efficiency of travel for drivers, allowing them to pass through the toll road more easily and giving them access to multiple bridges. The tags will be usable in either of the international bridges, but an account will still be required for each bridge.

For more information or to set up an account with the new tolling system, visit the International Bridge website.

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This article originally appeared on The Sault News: The new international bridge toll system is designed to save costs and benefit drivers