Electronic Toll Road to Ease the Road Much Traveled Canada's New Highway 407 Will Be the First Toll Road in the World without Toll Booths, the Government Says

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ONTARIO is opening its first toll road since the 19th century, when private landowners were allowed to charge a fee to people crossing muddy tracks on their property. This time, computers will be collecting the tolls automatically.

The electronic highway - this one for cars and trucks, not information - will be operated by a private company and financed almost entirely with private funds. All of this from a so-called socialist government in Ontario.

Already partially built, Highway 407 travels east-west just above the boundary of Metropolitan Toronto. The road is 43 miles long and is designed to take pressure from the 12-lane Highway 401, especially the 20 mile stretch that runs through the middle of Toronto. Every rush hour, and usually all day during the week, the 12 lanes are clogged.

"Highway 401 handles about a million trips a day," says David Guscott, deputy minister of transportation with the Ontario government. "It is the busiest freeway in North America." Whither the road

The highway will connect new communities north of Toronto, running from Markham - Canada's silicon valley with the highest per capita income in the country - to Mississauga, a city of half a million people just west of Toronto.

The government has spent $300 million (Canadian; US$217 million) on the highway, but decided to seek $1 billion in private funding when it could not afford to build the road fast enough.

"At the rate we were going, it would have taken 20 years," Mr. Guscott says. "Now it'll be open by 1998, maybe sooner."

This is the first toll road in the world that will not have any toll booths, according to the government.

"Because we wanted the traffic to move, we didn't want any slowdowns at toll booths," Guscott says. "The system will be accessible to everybody, but there will be a price break for people who use electronic transponders." Two ways to collect tolls

Two systems for toll collection will be used on the new highway:

* Each time a car drives on the highway, its license plate will be photographed. (There already exists an automatic system used by the police to detect speeding cars with radar and photograph their license plates as they pass. …