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Automated toll collection machines should be installed at the Peace Bridge to improve efficiency and ease traffic flow across the international span, the state comptroller's office says.

If toll collectors were replaced by four machines and toll gates, traffic would move faster and costs could be trimmed by $326,000 a year, the comptroller's auditors said as they repeated a recommendation made in 1984.

"We determined a continuing need to automate toll collection activities and again recommend that the authority pursue the possibility of installing automated toll machines as a cost-saving measure," the report said.

But the Peace Bridge Authority, which administers the bridge, says even though it has considered the machines for years, it has yet to find one that will handle both U.S. and Canadian coins.

"Through the years, you have about 20 different coins in both Canada and the U.S. that could be used," said Ronald Lampman, authority secretary-treasurer. "There are no machines that accept any more than 14 denominations."

The international authority is studying automatic vehicle identification systems that include a strip attached to a windshield or truck cab that could be scanned by computer to record a charge to an account automatically, Lampman said.

But that system would serve only some vehicles.

"With the automatic gates, we think it would slow processing by 50 to 100 vehicles per hour," he added. "Toll collectors are usually faster at peak periods."

Lampman noted that the biggest congestion problems on the bridge stem from Customs and Immigration inspections.

Still, Lampman said the authority is committed to study toll machine advances and how they could be applied here.

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