The Ohio Turnpike has put on a big marketing blitz since announcing a partnership last week with Giant Eagle supermarkets to offer E-ZPass toll tags in their stores.
Unfortunately for northwest Ohio residents, Giant Eagle pulled out of the Toledo market a little more than 14 months ago, so the only place to obtain a toll tag in this part of the state remains at a Turnpike service plaza or by mail.
Ohio Turnpike spokesman Brian Newbacher assured me the Turnpike is "working on finding an appropriate retailer" for the Toledo area that can complement their deal with Giant Eagle, which no longer has any stores west of Lorain County.
Of course, if you order by mail, you have the option to obtain E-ZPass from another state's toll authority that charges lower fees than the Ohio Turnpike does. Its fees are among the highest charged by agencies spanning from Illinois to Virginia to Maine for the ability to pay tolls electronically on the E-ZPass system. I still carry an Illinois "I-Pass," which has no monthly fee at all.
But if you opt for the home team, E-ZPass is still a bargain if you use it for even just a few Turnpike trips, because toll rates are significantly lower in most areas for electronic payment than they are for paying with cash or, where available, credit card. Plus you usually get right through the toll plaza, instead of having to wait for the driver(s) in front of you dig for change.
The only exceptions are if you get stuck behind someone who, lacking E-ZPass, inexplicably enters the E-ZPass Only lane -- that's annoying as heck -- or the somewhat rarer instances when the toll tag doesn't scan or there is no dedicated E-ZPass Only lane. Just last week I came back from a trip to Indiana and pulled in and nothing happened. I gave my I-Pass tag a rap with my knuckle and the gate sprang up, as if I were Fonzie hitting the jukebox at Arnold's.