North Texas Tollway Authority, Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission and the Harris County Toll Road Authority are among the winners of this year’s IBTTA Toll Excellence Awards.
IBTTA, the worldwide association for the owners and operators of toll facilities and the businesses that serve them, says that six toll facility operators and one private sector company are the winners. They all are global industry leaders and role models, performing outstanding work by finding less costly solutions for drivers, creating stronger customer support services, improving safety, enhancing sustainable clean water practices, and embracing new technologies.
The awards will be presented during IBTTA’s 90th Annual Meeting & Exhibition in Austin, Texas on September 19. During the award ceremony, one recipient will be honoured with the President’s Award for Excellence, the association’s highest achievement.
This year’s recipients of IBTTA’s 2022 Toll Excellence Awards are:
- Administration and Finance: E-470 Public Highway Authority (Colorado)
- Customer Service and Marketing Outreach: North Texas Tollway Authority
- Safety: Indiana Toll Road
- Social Responsibility: Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission
- Technology: Transportation Corridor Agencies (operators of The Toll Roads of Orange County, California)
- Toll Operations, Engineering and Maintenance: Harris County Toll Road Authority (Texas)
- Private Sector Innovation: Electronic Transaction Consultants
“The quest for the highest quality never ends in the toll and transportation industry and these awardees represent excellence in meeting customer and community needs,” said Patrick Jones, executive director and chief executive of IBTTA, the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association. “By sharing their innovative solutions for evolving transportation challenges, they are making the industry stronger and more resilient.”
“For more than 20 years, the Toll Excellence Awards have been recognising creative, innovative and positive programmes that set new standards for the owners and operators of toll facilities and the businesses that serve them,” said David Machamer, chair of IBTTA’s Toll Excellence Awards committee and the assistant deputy director for toll and PIKEPASS operations with the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority. “We applaud their achievements that are already helping drivers and keeping our roads safe.”
Administration and Finance:
E-470 Public Highway Authority
Starting in January 2022, the E-470 Public Highway Authority lowered toll rates for all its customers despite the pandemic. The authority’s debt and financial management strategy during the pandemic focused on achieving a long-standing goal of reducing and levelling the debt service profile. Throughout the pandemic, the authority didn’t request or seek state and federal funds. Instead, it relied only on strategic planning and financial strategies to ensure its capital plan, debt plan and overall credit rating remained strong. Even with the economic downturn, E-470’s board of directors extended 2020 toll rates through 2021 without any toll rate increases.
The board also approved the 2020 bond refunding plan and updates to the authority’s debt management policy, which included for the first time, financial goals for the future. These goals included debt service coverage levels, bond ratings, fund balance levels, toll rate management and self-funding its capital program and paying off debt early, if possible. This enabled the authority to move forward with its long-standing goals to restructure and level its future debt service profile, achieve US$80 million in savings in the 2020 bond transaction, additional savings with the 2021 bond transaction of $2 million, as well as lower toll rates for all customers.
Customer Service and Marketing Outreach:
North Texas Tollway Authority
The North Texas Tollway Authority (NTTA) and its advertising agency, the Integer Group, developed an unusual and creative marketing campaign focused on humanising its transponder, the TollTag, and tolling. The campaign featured a diverse cast of puppet ambassadors that emphasised a message about the value of both and presented a call to action for drivers in North Texas to open a TollTag account.
To measure its success, NTTA used digital enhancements to directly track new TollTag accounts opened from digital ads. During the year-long campaign, the puppets became friendly and trusted advocates for NTTA and its customers. The campaign transformed the TollTag brand and led to a 15:1 return on investment, $58 million in revenue from new TollTag accounts specifically opened through digital ads and a 300 percent increase in positive social engagement.
Indiana Toll Road (ITR Concession Company)
Between 2015 and 2018, more than 2,000 people were killed nationwide by wrong-way drivers. In Indiana, the ITR Concession Company finds that unacceptable. In 2019, ITR began designing a wrong-way detection system that focused on the two overwhelming root causes of a driver entering the road in the wrong direction—intoxication and confusion.
The system has safely identified 65 separate incidents of a patron traveling the wrong way on a mainline ramp through active and concentrated alerts to wrong-way drivers, advanced warning to patrons on the road, immediate alarming into ITR’s Traffic Management Center and Indiana State Police and alerts to all management staff. All 65 wrong-way drivers safely corrected their travel and continued in the proper direction without a single accident.
Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission
“Responsibility Matters” is one of five core values in the PA Turnpike’s strategic plan, which emphasises that the organisation embodies “diversity, integrity, and sustainability in all our practices”. Responsibility Matters inspires and guides the Engineering Department’s decision making concerning the PA Turnpike’s Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) Permit and its commitment to preventing and reducing stormwater pollution in a sustainable manner.
As part of this commitment, the Turnpike employs numerous strategies to reduce pollutants across the 552-mile system, meeting and exceeding regulatory mandates. The MS4 programme’s vision and organisational structure has enabled the PA Turnpike to boost awareness about the importance of preventing stormwater pollution runoff, nurture interdepartmental communication, develop innovative solutions for stormwater management and compliance and improve efficiency of its stormwater-management operations.
Transportation Corridor Agencies (operators of Toll Roads of Orange County)
In 2012, the Transportation Corridor Agencies – operator of State Routes 73, 133, 241 and 261 in Orange County, California – became the nation’s first tolling agency to offer a free app for account management. Since then, the app has become a core component of agency’s customer service offering. The app – available for download via the App Store or Google Play – is regularly updated to make the toll roads experience even more convenient and user-friendly for drivers.
Today, the app allows users to open a new account, manage an existing account, pay tolls without an account, resolve violations and more. Each year the app is used to make around 350,000 payments and each month it has about 37,000 new downloads. Of all new accounts, 13 percent are established via the app and 13 percent of all tolls paid without an account are paid using the app.
Toll Operations, Engineering and Maintenance:
Harris County Toll Road Authority
The Harris County Toll Road Authority created a ground-breaking image review and verification system that leverages artificial intelligence, AI, while implementing an innovative programme for its staff to reach an unprecedented level of accuracy and efficiency in transaction processing. The system went live in 2019, but at that time, it needed constant feedback from people to validate and inform the AI system. When COVID-19 struck, the authority eliminated the physical collection of cash to protect its staff and pulled toll booth operators from the toll plazas.
The authority’s commitment to its valued workforce led it to identify opportunities to retain these workers within the agency in roles such as customer service and back-office positions and establish new roles. The authority also created strategic community partnerships to develop a first-in-the-nation professional certification for image review and form the authority’s Opportunity Academy.
In the past two years, the integration of AI with human capital has delivered a system reaching 99.996 percent accuracy. By connecting staff to innovative technology and incorporating a one-of-a-kind opportunity program that offers professional growth, HCTRA built on its reputation as an industry innovator with high accuracy of license plate-based transactions per day and preserved the customer experience.
Private Sector Innovation:
Electronic Transaction Consultants (ETC)
ETC was chartered to develop and implement an integrated accounts receivable management (ARM) application initially for use by Harris County Toll Road Authority. The ARM application was designed and developed to collect on past due receivables along with the functionality to perform hearings, adjudication and/or litigation. The ARM application was to be integrated with the ETC riteHorizon Back Office System implemented at the Harris County authority, along with electronic delivery of data and documents to the Harris County Attorney Office and County Clerk’s Office.
The ARM application is a consolidated solution with the integration of advanced technologies, including a modern low-code user interface and cloud infrastructure and can be integrated easily with any back-office system, tolling or otherwise. The system provides seamless integration across the various processes, with a clear timeline for each collection and legal action escalation points. This enables users to quickly evaluate each case and decide on the next steps.
For more information on the awards, contact Pat Jones, executive director and chief executive of IBTTA. If wanting to speak with one of the Toll Excellence Award winners, contact Jennifer Walsh, director of communications, at email@example.com or +1 (202) 599 - 5474 or visit www.ibtta.org.