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Swipe cards, one-way toll slated to take effect Sunday

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Local commuters crossing the bridge between Fort Frances and International Falls will face new rates, a one-way toll, and swipe cards beginning this Sunday (Oct. 1).

The bridge tickets currently used by commuters no longer will be accepted after Saturday. And in fact, the new swipe cards already are being sold at Safeway in Fort Frances as well as at Stop’n Shop, Super One, and Super Valu over in the Falls.

They will not be sold at the toll booth itself.

The cards will be valid for 12 round trips at a cost of $15 ($10 U.S.), and also carry an expiry date of Dec. 31, 2001.

The computer system, display, and scanner were scheduled to be installed this morning, and were presented to the media yesterday.

“The toll operator gets a screen--it’s a touch screen very near to what a restaurant would use. The cards have on the back-side a bar code and as someone would drive by, they would have the bar code facing up and put it in front of the scanner,” explained Kevin Sohl, a technician from North Country Business Products installing the system.

A second monitor will sit in the window of the toll booth to indicate to drivers how many trips remain on their swipe card as they pass through.

Once a card is scanned, the machine beeps and there is a delay before it will scan again to avoid having two trips taken off a card by mistake.

Commuters also can request a print-out, which lists all the times and dates of past trips the card was used for.

For those without a swipe card, the toll will be substantially higher. One-time travellers, for instance, will pay $9 ($6 U.S.) for a round trip, and can pay in Canadian or U.S. dollars.

“We’re trying to simplify the toll collection process as much as possible to expedite the traffic,” noted Garry Neumann, general manager for Minnesota, Dakota and Wisconsin Railway.

“There’s a set exchange rate for both currencies. They are not being accepted at par,” he said.

Also effective Sunday, the booth on the Canadian end of the bridge no longer will be collecting tolls.

The changes come despite protests by a number of Fort Frances residents.

“It’s not convenient, it’s not user-friendly, and a lot of people who bought tickets can’t use them. It’s not been flexible at all,” said Cathy Richards, who has spearheaded local opposition to the toll changes.

“I think once this swipe card gets into effect, we’ll have a lot more people upset,” she added.

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