What You Need to Know About the Toll Roads Going Cash-less

Questions and answers from the Transportation Corridor Agencies.

These cash tool booths in Orange County will soon be a relic of the past. Patch file photo.
These cash tool booths in Orange County will soon be a relic of the past. Patch file photo.

With Orange County’s toll roads going cash free in May, here are some questions and answers about the transition from the Transportation Corridor Agencies.

Q.        I’ve signed up for an ExpressAccount, now what do I do?  What lane do I use?

A.         Once you’ve signed up for an ExpressAccount, you may immediately use it on The Toll Roads, driving in the lanes marked “FasTrak” and avoiding the need to stop at toll plazas. 

With the new, transponder-free ExpressAccounts, images of a vehicle’s license plate taken on The Toll Roads are linked to an account and the appropriate toll is collected. ExpressAccount customers may choose one of three payment options: prepaid, charge or invoice accounts.

Remember, ExpressAccount only works on The Toll Roads in Orange County (SRs 73, 133, 241 and 261). To travel on other tolled bridges, lanes and roads in California --  including the 91 Express Lanes --  you must have a FasTrak account.

Q.        Do I have to switch from FasTrak to one of the new ExpressAccounts?

A.         No. FasTrak customers don’t need to make any changes with the introduction of the new ExpressAccounts. FasTrak is still the preferred way to pay tolls electronically because tolls, on average, are 20 percent lower and FasTrak may be used on all tolled bridges, lanes and roads in California, including the 91 Express Lanes and the LA Metro ExpressLanes. ExpressAccounts use license plate tolling technology and are designed for customers who only use The Toll Roads and use them infrequently. 

Q.        I have a FasTrak account. With license plate tolling, can I drive without my transponder?

A.         If you choose to remain a FasTrak customer, you must keep your transponder mounted to your vehicle’s windshield.  This ensures that you are charged the reduced FasTrak toll.

If you choose to switch to an ExpressAccount, which uses images of your license plates to collect tolls and may only be used on the 73, 133, 241 and 261, then you must return your transponder to The Toll Roads and transfer from FasTrak to an ExpressAccount. Please call the customer service center at (949) 727-4800 or visit our walk-in centers in Irvine or San Clemente to process this transaction.

Q.        What are the lights I see now flashing at the toll plaza when I drive through? 

A.         Proven state-of-the-art tolling equipment is being installed at every tolling location in preparation for the removal of cash toll collection in May. The equipment supports FasTrak and the three new ExpressAccount types.

Drivers will notice that the lights on overhead gantries have already changed.  Because the ExpressAccount payments use license plate numbers – instead of FasTrak transponders – to collect tolls, each vehicle’s front and back license plates must now be illuminated so that a photo can be taken.

Formerly, only black and white photos were taken of license plates using infrared lighting to identify vehicles that did not pay the toll.  Now, color images with a greater level of detail are required. These photos ensure that the correct license plate is linked to the corresponding ExpressAccount.  The lights are the same type used on police cars, ambulances and fire trucks around the country as they share the roadway with other drivers.  At The Toll Roads’ tolling locations, the light produces a safe, momentary 200 microsecond flash.  

Q.        I signed up for an ExpressAccount with the “charge” option. When and how will I see toll charges on my credit card?

A.         With the new ExpressAccount options, customers may choose three ways to pay:

  • Charge – At the end of each day, customers’ tolls are processed to the credit card on file for each trip on The Toll Roads. You may see a transaction that evening or soon thereafter, depending on your bank.
  • Prepaid – Customers open an account with a prepaid balance and tolls are deducted from the amount whenever they use The Toll Roads.
  • Invoice – Customers are sent an invoice at the close of the month for tolls incurred that month; no need to use a credit card or link a bank account to your account. This account type includes an invoice fee.      

Q.        When is the last day The Toll Roads will be accepting cash on the roads?

A.         Cash toll collection will end in May 2014.TCA is currently working on a final schedule for completing the installation of the new technology and posting new signage on the roads.  An exact date in May for the final day of cash collection will be announced as soon as a date is finalized. 

Q.        How will tourists and out-of-town guests use The Toll Roads without cash toll collection?

A.         The Toll Roads have also introduced One-Time-Toll, a payment option designed for infrequent toll road drivers and visitors. They may use The Toll Roads at their convenience and pay their tolls within 48 hours after their trip at TheTollRoads.com or via our free app—all without the need to establish an ExpressAccount or a FasTrak account. The app is available for download by accessing the Apple App Store or Google Play Store from a device and, then, typing in “FasTrak” or “The Toll Roads” in the search function.

GreenInOC March 20, 2014 at 10:45 PM
Q. Why is this so hard to figure out? A. We are being purposely confusing because if you can't figure it out and don't have endless amounts of time to spend on the phone with us, it costs you more money and makes us more. Wait, was that too easy to understand?!
LeAna Bui March 20, 2014 at 11:05 PM
Since I have to drive to Riverside frequently, I've started paying attention to the rates. Referencing the rate on the website, If I use the 241, enter at SM Pkwy and pass through both toll plazas during non peak times using my Fastrak, I pay $4.75 heading north. If I go during peak times, it cost $4.95. This matches what appears on my account. If I decide to stop at Foothill Ranch on my way north, I get hit with a $1.40 charge for using the Alton Pkwy exit. If, when I'm coming south (returning from Riverside) and use the Antonio exit instead of SM Pkwy, it costs me $0.65. It takes a little reading, but it's not that tough to figure out the tolls.
Douglas Martin March 21, 2014 at 04:05 AM
It won't be long before each lane has TWO license plate readers 100 feet apart, with a computer that calculates your speed, and if over 65 mph, will instantly link to LEXUS-NEXUS to obtain the registered owner's name address, social security number, and bank information, and generating a $475.00 citation for going 65.78888 mph. btw - the infrared cameras can see inside your vehicle. You have no right to privacy on a public roadway.
Brainwashed_In_Church March 21, 2014 at 10:30 AM
LeAna, all you did was validate the tolls on your bill. However, there is nothing that explains the arithmetic in computing tolls in conjunction with the rates on the rate card. Nothing states for example, you pay a toll as you pass through the toll plaza. (Yes, it's obvious when you drive through it but, using only the resources on the Toll Roads Website, it isn't explicit.) Also, Depending on what location you enter the toll road determines whether you pay a toll on exit. There are some situations (I think Portola to Alton may be one) where you wouldn't pay a toll on exiting Alton. The locations are divided or clustered into regions. If you stay within one region you only pay one (entry) of the tolls. So, it isn't clear.
LeAna Bui March 21, 2014 at 04:41 PM
Andy - I'm not sure what you are saying. "Nothing states, for example, you pay a toll as you pass through a toll plaza."___________________________________________ It's a tollroad with toll plazas - you really need it stated explicitly that you are paying a toll at a toll plaza? I understand that the different toll rates at different exits and such is confusing (especially if you are only an occasional user or accidentally find yourself on the toll road without the account or FasTrak), but I have no problem understanding how/when I'm being charged. As for the arithmetic in computing tolls, are you wanting to know how the Toll Roads determine the tolls on the rate cards?


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