Plan Calls for Eliminating Tolls West of Rt. 128

The board of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority has given preliminary approval to a proposal that would eliminate all tolls on the highway west of Route 128.

Officials say the plan is still subject to legal, financial and contract review. A final vote could be taken by the board in November. If approved then, the changes would take effect on June 30th of next year.

The plan was offered by a panel created by Governor Romney to look into turnpike finances. The panel believes any loss of revenue from the tolls would be offset by other savings, including the dismissal of most of the state's 400 toll collectors.

But the plan was immediately blasted as "utterly irresponsible" by Michael Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation. Widmer said it would be a "major step backward" in solving the state's transportation crisis.

The plan would eliminate turnpike tolls between Exits seven and 13. Tolls between Exit One and Exit Six in western Massachusetts were eliminated in 1996.