By Mike Schuh

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Construction to remove toll booths on a major bridge linking coastal Virginia to the Delmarva Peninsula has begun as Maryland’s transportation department transitions to a cashless tolling system.

The latest round of construction on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge began Sunday night and is expected to last through the end of June, according to a Transportation Department statement. Three lanes on the bridge have been shut down permanently and existing toll booths will be demolished to widen lanes.

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When it is completed, the all-electronic, cashless system is expected to ease traffic, reduce rates and benefit the environment, said Jim Ports, Maryland Transportation’s executive director. Drivers won’t have to stop to pay tolls, as overhead sensors will automatically register their E-ZPasses or use video tolling to collect payment.

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While the system is expected to decrease congestion in the long run, construction on the two-year, multi-million dollar project has already caused miles-long traffic jams. In October, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan directed state officials to expedite the rehabilitation project, which also included repairs and resurfacing. The renovations are slated for completion in 2021.

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