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Goodbye, tollbooths. The Kansas Turnpike will soon be cashless

Cars drive on the Kansas Turnpike I-35 at the Bazaar Cattle Pens exit 15 miles southwest of Emporia.
Julie Denesha
/
KCUR 89.3
The Kansas Turnpike Authority began switching to cashless tolling in 2020 as a way to make the tollway covering parts of interstates 35 and 70 from the Oklahoma border to Kansas City safer and more convenient for drivers.

Kansas Turnpike Authority officials say the updated tollway will be more convenient for drivers because they don’t need to stop at a tollbooth when exiting the turnpike.

Drivers on the Kansas Turnpike will soon no longer need to pull over to pay their toll.

Starting July 1, the toll highway will be cashless, allowing drivers to fly right through on ramps and exits without slowing down on the high-speed roadway.

The Kansas tollway that covers parts of interstates 35 and 70 from the Oklahoma border to Kansas City will also be slightly cheaper for drivers who use an official transponder – and more expensive for those who don’t.

The Kansas Turnpike Authority offers K-Tags, which are small stickers for vehicles that allow drivers to be charged automatically when they go through a cashless toll. Drivers without K-Tags will be identified by their license plate and will receive a bill for the toll in the mail.

Rachel Bell, KTA director of business services and customer relations, said drivers with K-Tags will pay 50% less than those paying by mail.

“So we are encouraging that,” Bell said, “because that is the easiest and most efficient way for us to process the toll.”

For instance, a driver traveling from the east side of Wichita to south Topeka currently pays $9 with cash or $6 with a K-Tag. Starting July 1, someone who would have paid with cash will be charged nearly $12 by mail for the same route. Meanwhile, K-Tag drivers will be charged $5.95, according to the KTA’s toll calculator.

An example of the Kansas Turnpike Authority toll calculator shows tolls for traveling from east Wichita to south Topeka.
Kansas Turnpike Authority
This example of a toll comparison for driving from east Wichita to south Topeka from the Kansas Turnpike Authority's toll calculator shows drivers who use a K-Tag transponder will pay half the price of what drivers mailed a bill will pay. When the KTA goes cashless on July 1, tolls will increase for drivers paying by mail and decrease for drivers using a K-Tag or another approved transponder.

Nearly 70% of drivers on the turnpike already use a K-Tag or an approved transponder from another state like Texas and Oklahoma.

KTA began switching to the new system in 2020 as a way to make the highway safer for drivers, who no longer need to slow down on the high-speed roadway to pay their toll. The new system is also similar to what states like Colorado and Texas use for their toll roads.

Bell said KTA has heard from drivers who wanted the same system in Kansas.

“We do hear from customers,” Bell said, “who say, ‘When can we have a system like theirs, where everybody keeps moving?’”

The new system also means toll collectors will no longer be needed. But there will be no mass layoffs for those KTA employees.

Bell said KTA chose to launch the new system when the majority of its toll collectors were at retirement age. It also allowed toll collectors to move to other roles, like customer service.

“So when customers call in to our customer service centers,” Bell said, “there is a pretty good likelihood that they're talking to a former toll collector.”

Bell said about five full-time employees have not yet said what they plan to do, and may be looking for new jobs.

The changeover to cashless tolling will occur overnight on July 1. However, some account management changes will take about a week, and drivers won’t be able to access their accounts or customer service during that time. Customer service centers are set to reopen on July 8.

Drivers can learn more about cashless tolling by visiting DriveKS.com.

Dylan Lysen reports on social services and criminal justice for the Kansas News Service. You can follow him on Threads @DylanLysen or email him at dlysen (at) kcur (dot) org.

The Kansas News Service is a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio focused on health, the social determinants of health and their connection to public policy.

Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished by news media at no cost with proper attribution and a link to ksnewsservice.org.

As the Kansas social services and criminal justice reporter, I want to inform our audience about how the state government wants to help its residents and keep their communities safe. Sometimes that means I follow developments in the Legislature and explain how lawmakers alter laws and services of the state government. Other times, it means questioning the effectiveness of state programs and law enforcement methods. And most importantly, it includes making sure the voices of everyday Kansans are heard. You can reach me at dlysen@kcur.org, 816-235-8027 or on Threads, @DylanLysen.