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BreezeBy transponders, pricing policy to change

 BREEZEBY sensors read the top of this transponder, where the arrow is located. Suction cups hold down the 1-by-4-inch device.

Photo by Kirby Neumann-Rea.
BREEZEBY sensors read the top of this transponder, where the arrow is located. Suction cups hold down the 1-by-4-inch device.

Commissioners made a unanimous decision at the tail-end of Tuesday’s epic, 4-hour-and-38-minute-long Port of Hood River meeting to roll out new BreezeBy transponders and a pricing policy to go with them.

Starting Jan. 1, 2014, people who use the BreezeBy windshield transponders to cross the Hood River Bridge will have the option of picking up a new plastic transponder that will be able to be transferred easily from vehicle to vehicle.

The Port of Hood River started the BreezeBy program back in 2007 during its Toll Plaza Improvement Project. The program was designed for frequent commuters who didn’t want to handle cash every day when paying the toll to cross the bridge. When scanned at the toll plaza, the transponder automatically deducts tolls at a discounted rate from the user’s account and allows the customer to drive through all toll plaza lanes without stopping to pay bridge fare.

Currently, the port issues transponders in the form of a sticker embedded with a computer chip that is then applied to the back of the vehicle’s rearview mirror or its windshield. Attempting to remove the sticker, however, would damage the whole transponder and render it useless. In an area where the use of crushed rock on the roads in winter often results in a new windshield by spring, the sticky transponders proved, for some users, to be a nuisance.

“If you’ve ever broken your windshield, or go to another car, you’d have to buy another one,” Kowell explained to commissioners.

Mellissa Halseth, the port’s office specialist who was taking minutes during the meeting, agreed.

“People get windshield replacements every day and they’re really upset that we charge them for a sticker,” she said.

The port currently provides three free sticker transponders per customer. Once the customer goes over that allotment, however, they’re required to cover the cost of the replacement: about $15. The new transponders — plastic boxes slightly smaller than a deck of cards — cost $29 a pop, but new customers will each get one transponder for free. Lose or damage the new transponder and it costs $29 to replace, regardless of how many transponders the customer received in the past.

Current customers can turn in their old transponder to the port and receive a new one for $15. Customers can still use the sticker transponders as long as they want. The new transponders work the same as the old ones, but are fastened to the windshield differently. The port is currently testing a suction cup or a Velcro model to see which one adheres better to vehicle windshields.

The new policy is expected to save money for both the port and its customers. The port will save money by not giving away up $45 in free transponders per person. Customers are expected to save money by being able to easily remove the transponder from their vehicles — which can be attached by Velcro strips or suction cups — thereby cutting down on the need to purchase replacements. In a memorandum to the port, Kowell also noted the port “will be able to enhance its internal control over the inventory of transponders by reducing the number of free transponders.”

Those with questions about the new policy can call the port at 541-386-1645. Customers can turn in their old transponders and pick up new ones starting Jan. 1 at the port offices, located at 1000 E. Port Marina Drive in Hood River.

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