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Exactly How Much Exact Change?

No doubt there are greater annoyances in Orange County life than finding that you have entered the new San Joaquin Hills Transportation Corridor without a clue of how much change you will need to drop in an approaching collection box. Signs on the new road warn of the need for exact change, but don’t say how much.

Still, any potential for confusion on busy roadways is also possibly a safety problem, and ought to be addressed. Moreover, something so new also ought to be done correctly. The signs should be fixed to alert drivers entering the tollway of exactly how much change they are going to need to ride.

Under the current system, the absence of detailed information is leaving some motorists in a quandary. Some of the impromptu solutions, all bad, have resulted in drivers turning around, throwing dollar bills or checks in the collection box, or getting out of their cars to ask other drivers for help.

Michele Sperl-Miller, a spokeswoman for the Orange County Transportation Corridor Agencies, suggests that drivers always should keep $2 worth of change in their cars so that they are prepared. That’s a good idea, but it does seem to place the onus of responsibility on the driver. Anybody who has tried this new road knows that there are some places where it is very easy to make a mistake and get on the road even unintentionally, with the burden of a huge violation fee soon rising up in the driver’s mind.

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Absent a stock of change, driving through is preferable to doing something unsafe, the agency asserts. A camera will photograph the license plate of drivers who don’t pay, and they then will receive a letter giving 15 days to pay the toll. After that, fines begin to mount, with a threat down the road of being unable to a renew car registration.

All of the remedial advice may be sound, but there is no substitute for the tollway making it easy on the driver, and more important, assuming the burden of correctly advising oncoming motorists about what they are in for. In a word, it’s the tollway authority’s responsibility.

The agency reports that it is looking into correcting the glitch with the signs. At the risk of further confusion, we hope the corrective signs come on line sooner rather than later.


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