Underuse of Delaware River bridges during the past year's coronavirus pandemic is prompting officials to increase tolls for the first time in a decade.
Tolls on the bridges operated by the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission will increase on April 11 and again in 2024 after commissioners voted Monday to raise them for the first time in 10 years.
Commissioners cited the decline in passenger car traffic and toll revenue caused by the coronavirus pandemic and the burden of maintaining 13 toll “free” bridges with revenue from the seven toll bridges.
The commission approved the toll increases on Monday with one change from an early February proposal. The increase will take effect at midnight Sunday, April 11.
Car tolls increase from $1 to $1.25 for drivers with an E-ZPass account and from $1 to $3 for car drivers who pay cash at seven bridges. Those rates impact:
- The Trenton-Morrisville (Route 1),
- New Hope-Lambertville (Route 202), I-78,
- Easton-Phillipsburg (Route 22),
- Portland-Columbia (Routes 611, 46, and 94),
- Delaware Water Gap (I-80), and
- Milford-Montague (Route 206) bridges.
The E-ZPass rate for passenger vehicles stays at $1.25 at the new Scudder’s Fall bridge, but its cash toll increases from $2.60 to $3 on April 3.
Commissioner Lori Ciesla of New Jersey cast the only "no" vote, saying she is concerned about the effect of the $2 increase in cash tolls from $1 to $3 on people who’ve already been hit hard during the pandemic.
Commissioner/treasurer Yuki Moore Laurenti of New Jersey agreed that the toll increase is relatively mild, except for passenger vehicle drivers paying cash. But Laurenti noted that a greater burden will be on commercial traffic.
The bridge commission saw traffic and revenue drop at the height of the coronavirus pandemic when travel restrictions were in place and more employees worked from home.
Budget shortfalls persist in spite of the Commission approving a hiring freeze, salary freeze, delayed construction and 10 percent cut in certain budget items, officials said.
More than 75 percent of the Commission’s toll transactions are done by E-ZPass.
The Commission’s frequency-based commuter discount would be maintained through 2023, but the discount amount will be reduced to 20 percent from the current 40 percent. That discount is eliminated in 2024.
In 2024, a second toll increase will take effect.
The Class 1 passenger vehicle E-ZPass rate would increase by 25 cents to a $1.50 toll. The Commission’s E-ZPass commuter discount program would be eliminated entirely at all eight of the Commission toll bridges.
Commercial vehicles rated class 2 and above will experience no toll adjustment.
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