Example of a BreezeBy transponder sticker issued by the Port of Hood River. The Port of Cascade Locks will be issuing stickers like these when he Bridge of the Gods starts using BreezeBy in January 2020. Customers can cross either bridge with the same transponder.

The Bridge of the Gods is getting ready to implement electronic tolling, utilizing the same BreezeBy system as the Hood River-White Salmon Interstate Bridge.
Electronic tolling is expected to speed up transactions across the Bridge of the Gods and ease the heavy backlog the bridge sees over the summer months, said Jess Groves, Port of Cascade Locks Commission president. The Port of Cascade Locks is also hoping to use electronic tolling as a way to offer discounts to those in financial need, Groves said, but port staff is still working out the details of the program.

“One of the reasons we did it is because we know it’s going to affect (the Bridge of the Gods) positively,” Groves said.

The Port of Cascade Locks intends to have all aspects of the electronic tolling system ready to go by Jan. 1, 2020, in order to work out any glitches before the heavy summer traffic.
Because the Port of Hood River owns the BreezeBy system, the Port of Hood River will provide back office services for the Port of Cascade Locks, as detailed in an intergovernmental agreement signed by the Port of Hood River on Oct. 8. The Port of Cascade Locks is preparing to sign the agreement as well.

Customers crossing the Bridge of the Gods will need to set up a BreezeBy account through the Port of Hood River, but when someone crosses the Bridge of the Gods, the Port of Hood River will transfer the individual toll amount over to the Port of Cascade Locks.

“You, the customer, has to put money into our account to set up a BreezeBy account,” explained Fred Kowell, chief financial officer for the Port of Hood River, to the port commissioners at an Oct. 8 meeting.

The Port of Hood River will retain 13 cents per crossing — a cost that will be adjusted annually in order to cover operation costs — Kowell said, adding that it would likely be a couple of years before the Port of Hood River broke even on the initial implementation costs and started making a profit.

The Port of Cascade Locks will be able to control its own toll rates, but will have to follow the same business rules, such as vehicle classifications and account policies, as the Port of Hood River. Any changes in business rules would have to be agreed upon and adopted by both ports, a process that takes roughly six months.
While the Port of Hood River will operate the back office side of electronic tolling for the Bridge of the Gods, the Port of Cascade Locks is responsible for buying and installing the physical equipment needed to process the transactions — most of which has already been installed.

“If you drive across, you’ll see some lights that you didn’t see before,” Groves said. “We opted to have a light rather than an arm, and it’s kind of a unique thing.”

The light will work similarly to the one currently being used, in tandem with an arm, on the Hood River Bridge — green means go, red means stop, and amber indicates a low balance in the BreezeBy account. 

“The equipment that has to go into this is really expensive, but it (electronic tolling) is the way things are going right now in the United States,” Groves said. “Eventually, every place that tolls will be that way.”
The Port of Cascade Locks is currently working with frequent customers, such as trucking companies, to get them used to the transponder system required by BreezeBy. 

While the Bridge of the Gods currently sells yellow triangle stickers that indicate a vehicle is eligible for a discounted “local toll,” Groves said that the Port of Cascade Locks will issue a drop-dead date for those products and hopes to buy them all back by the end of the year.

Pre-paid coupons will still be accepted after electronic tolling is implemented.
Groves encourages Bridge of the Gods users with questions about the new electronic tolling system to call the Port of Cascade Locks at 541-374-8619. “We’ll make sure they get answered.”

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