TULSA, Okla. — Thieves are breaking into coin operated toll booths across Oklahoma, costing the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority thousands of dollars over the years.
To make the problem even worse, the broken toll booths can’t be repaired because they are obsolete, and parts are difficult to find.
The Assistant Deputy Director of Toll Operations for the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority, David Machamer says it is not the coins that are being stolen but the damage being done to the booths that is so expensive.
“I know people who have gotten jail time,” Machamer explained.
Machamer says some people are not going to these toll booths to put money in. Instead they are taking money out.
“People, they tried to rob the coin machines to get into them,” he said. The coin machines do not hold that much money, “It is not that much money,” Machamer explained.
But they are expensive to fix. Repair bills total tens of thousands of dollars and the money comes from Oklahoma Turnpike Authority.
Machamer said the totals have risen over the years. “I could not begin to estimate over the many years, but it is a few thousand dollars,” he said. In Oklahoma there are currently 107-coin booths for you to drop your change in, but some people are trying to get the change out with crowbars.
“No crime goes unpunished, so we do prosecute the full extent when they rob our coin machines,” he said.
To make the problem even worse, the coin booths are difficult to repair. Some parts are obsolete. That’s one reason why the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority is replacing these outdated coin booths with cashless turnpikes.
“Now it is all cashless where now you pay your toll with pike pass with pate play which takes a picture of the license place and sends you an invoice,” Machamer explained.
OTA is shelling out major coin, more than 300 million dollars to build a turnpike on the Gilcrease Expressway that will be cashless.
“The Gilcrease turnpike in Tulsa that will be opening sometime in June, July timeframe which will be all cashless,” he said.
Until all the coin booths are replaced, they will remain vulnerable. Some thieves have been caught in the act and sent to jail. Security cameras helped prosecute some of those robbers, thieves have struck in rural Oklahoma, as well as in major cities like Tulsa.
The new cashless toll booths are for safety and convenience. The turnpike authority says that is a good change.
For more information on the timeline of the cashless booths and how plateplay works you can visit their website.
They expect all turnpikes to be cashless by 2025.
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