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Tollway OKs $44 million contract for ‘cutting-edge’ payment system

Tollway board members Thursday unanimously approved six-year $44 millideal with Accenture LLP thincludes new system thwould let drivers  use

Tollway board members Thursday unanimously approved a six-year, $44 million deal with Accenture LLP that includes a new system that would let drivers use their smartphones instead of transponders to pay tolls. | Sun-Times Media

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A new contractor has been asked to produce an Illinois Tollway payment system that would allow drivers to use their smartphones instead of transponders to pay tolls.

Tollway board members Thursday unanimously approved a six-year, $44 million deal with Accenture LLP in hopes of moving the system into a more cutting-edge payment and records system by 2015.

“Smartphone-based tolling” could be especially helpful to interstate truck drivers and the 20 percent of Illinois Tollway customers from out of state who could just get on their smartphones and say “I’m traveling through Illinois. Please use this as a transponder” before entering an Illinois tollbooth, said Shana Whitehead, the tollway’s chief of business systems.

The Illinois Tollway operates the largest open-road tolling system in the nation. Now drivers can use I-Pass transponders to register toll payments rather than stopping at gates to pay.

“We’d love to pilot it with them,’’ Whitehead said of Accenture. “This is cutting edge.’’

Drivers would still have to preload an I-Pass account under the smartphone-based payment method. Accenture also is exploring ways for drivers to preload toll payments with something other than a credit card account or check. For example, tollway users might be able to buy a gift card for a minimum $20 in cash at a kiosk, Whitehead said.

Another payment option might be a “touch-and-go” credit card with a special chip. Drivers could touch payment pads with their cards instead of throwing coins in a toll collection basket.

Accenture has been asked to simplify the I-Pass payment and violation collection system so records are easier for users to read and understand.

“We think this is a linchpin contract in our capacity to improve our customer service,’’ Whitehead said.



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