If -  for old time’s sake - you want to use cash one last time on the Mass Pike, you have until Friday night at nine-forty-five.   After that, the toll plazas will go dark and the state will rely exclusively on overhead gantries to collect turnpike fees.   They’re designed to read transponders inside your car – so called E-Z passes.

E-Z pass transponders are available on-line and over the phone, but a flood of users has overwhelmed MassDot’s customer service systems.  Brenda Viana showed up in person at an E-Z pass service center in Natick.  The line to pick up a transponder stretched out the door.

 “I think I got here at 9:20. I’ve been waiting here for 40 minutes and their process is really unorganized,” said Viana.  “You get to the front of the line and then you have to get a form and then fill out the form, get back in the line to go and get the E-Z pass.  It’s not great.”

But the real impact of the transition will come over the next three weeks as tolls booths from Stockbridge to Boston are demolished.   The state highway department says traffic will move like it does during a snowstorm – slowly.

“Everyone knows what it’s like to go thru a construction site,” said Stephen Collins, MassDOT’s director of tolling.  “Everyone needs to give themselves more time – perhaps seek an alternative way into work.”

One reason for moving to an electronic system is safety.  Most crashes on the turnpike happen near the tolls.  Yet, for the nearly five hundred people who make a living collecting tolls, it can’t be easy.  About half are retiring or taking new jobs at the Department of Transportation.    The rest will be out of work.

Bonnie Johnson, who was fed up with long lines at the E-Z pass service center and sympathetic to the plight of the laid off tolls worker, offered a suggestion.

“They should take the toll takers and make them be the E-Z pass workers,” said Johnson.

The project is expected to be complete by Thanksgiving.  It will make Massachusetts among the first states in the country with an all-electronic tolling system.   It won’t get rid of rush hour back-ups, but - with any luck - it should keep traffic moving more smoothly.