This was the fifth toll bridge to be constructed for the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission. The bridge spans the river between Dingman Township, PA. and Montague Township, N.J. It opened to traffic December 30, 1953.
The bridge fills an important regional economic role, serving as a northern gateway to the Pocono Mountains resorts of Pennsylvania and the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area on both sides of the river in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
The bridge is a four-span continuous steel deck-truss structure, 1,154 feet long. The structure has single lanes in each direction. The speed limit is 40 MPH. The bridge carries U.S. Route 206 from New Jersey, linking with U.S. Route 209 after the toll plaza in Pennsylvania. U.S. Route 6 is a short distance away to the north in Milford, PA.
The bridge’s three-lane toll plaza has a dedicated E-ZPass electronic toll collection lane and two mixed-mode (E-ZPass/cash) lanes. E-ZPass was used in approximately 85 percent of the bridge’s toll transactions in 2022. E-ZPass toll rates are lower than cash toll rates at Commission toll bridges. The Commisson charges higher tolls for cash transactions because they are more costly to collect and process than E-ZPass.
This is the Commission’s highest bridge. The bridge’s roadway at its lowest point — which is at its Pennsylvania side — is 106 feet above normal low water level. The bridge was constructed as a high-level structure to provide for an envisioned 40-mile-long Tocks Island Dam reservoir between Bushkill, Pa. and Port Jervis, N.Y. That dam never was built. Skepticism and opposition to the dam steadily grew in the 1960s and 1970s. In 1975, the Delaware River Basin Commission voted to shelve the project.
The first contract for the bridge was awarded September 24, 1951 to Johnson, Drake & Piper for construction of abutments and piers. Subsequent contracts were awarded to the Bethlehem Steel Company for the fabrication and erection of the steel superstructure, and A.L. Rake and Son of East Stroudsburg for the construction of roadway approaches in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
Former Milford Bridge
The current toll bridge is approximately 1,600 feet south of the site of a series of former bridges that served Milford-Montague area off and on for 127 years.
The last bridge at the location was a narrow, weight-restricted three-span steel-truss structure. This bridge opened on or about August 1, 1889 and remained in service for just over 64 years.
This bridge had a roadway width of 13 feet, 11 inches and a gross capacity of 5 tons. The structure rested on two piers and two abutments of rubble stone masonry. The pier footings were within timber cribs that apparently dated back to 1825-26, when the first wooden-covered bridge was constructed at the location.
The bridge was operated as a privately owned toll bridge for its first 33 years by a company formally called “the President, Managers, and Company for erecting a bridge over the river Delaware near the town of Milford.” The bridge company sold the structure to the states of Pennsylvania and New Jersey for $31,500 — the cost evenly split between the two states — on April 25, 1922. The sale had been arranged by the former Joint Commission for Elimination of Toll Bridges — Pennsylvania-New Jersey, the prdecessor agency to today’s Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission.
The property closing took place at the State House in Trenton, N.J. and was attended by attorneys for the two states; Louis Focht, a Joint Commission official; and an attorney for the bridge company named Xenophon P. Huddy of Milford. Toll collections at the bridge were terminated immediately after the sale. The bridge’s last toll taker was named Arthur Myers. He was directed to work as a bridge tender on behalf of the Joint Commission, which the states paid to maintain and operate the bridge after the sale. That maintenance/operation arrangement was transferred to the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission upon its establishment by the two states in late 1934.
The 1889 bridge was shut down the day the toll bridge opened — Dec. 30, 1953. The former bridge was lightly used, carrying a daily average of only 1,792 vehicles in 1953. (To put that in perspective, the current toll bridge carried 6,950 vehicles a day in 2022.)
While the Commission never owned the former bridge location and structure, it essentially controlled the old crossing on behalf of the deed-holding two states. A variety of issues factored into the Commission’s decision to close the bridge:
- Access to the old bridge was fraught with steep grades and narrow, winding high-crowned roads – notably on the New Jersey side;
- With a 13-feet, 10-inches total road deck width it was the narrowest of the truss bridges under Commission control at that time;
- The experience of the Commission in the maintenance and operation of the old bridge over nearly 20 years proved that continued service would have been expensive and inconsistent with due regard of motorist safety;
- Finally, the financing of the toll bridge’s construction would have been impossible if the old bridge were to remain in service as a nearby non-toll crossing. (In its bond covenants, the Commission committed to close and demolish the old bridge.
At least three prior bridges are known to have once stood at this former location. All were owned and operated as tolled crossing by the “President, Managers and Company for erecting a bridge over the Delaware River near the Town of Milford.”
This former private shareholder-owned company had a long and sometimes erratic history, including false starts, floods, poorly designed or constructed structures, and extended periods without a functioning bridge.
The original legislative act authorizing formation of this bridge company was enacted by Pennsylvania on March 12, 1804. This measure empowered the following individuals to form the envisioned bridge company: Samuel Johnston, John Biddis, John Brodhed, John Brink and Hugh Ross of Wayne County, PA. (at the time Milford was in Wayne County as Pike County would not be established until 1814) and Thomas Anderson, Daniel Steward, John Guston, and Jedediah Sayr of Sussex County, N.J. Owing to the fact that New Jersey never approved companion legislation, this initial effort expired.
Efforts to form a toll bridge company were resurrected 10 years later with New Jersey approving legal permission on January 27, 1814 and Pennsylvania granting its approval on March 28, 1814. Once again, bridge-building efforts languished. Finally, renewal acts to incorporate the bridge company were re-enacted in Pennsylvania on March 29, 1823, and in New Jersey on Dec. 23, 1824.
The 1824 measures appointed the following individuals to finally get the company into the business of building and operating an actual bridge: George Biddis, John Brink, James Wallace, and James Barton of Pennsylvania; James Stole, John Gustin, George Neldren, and Abraham Bray of New Jersey; and William Smith of New York City, N.Y. Major tasks would have been raising capital through sales of company stock, hiring a bridge designer and contractor, and purchasing construction materials.
Published accounts indicate that the private company’s first bridge — a wooden covered structure — was completed and opened Nov. 17, 1826. This bridge was siginificantly damaged in the January 1841 ice freshet, with the span on the New Jersey side collapsing into the river. Repairs were made, but the entire bridge fell in 1846. A ferry served the location for the next 10 years until a new bridge was built in 1856. That bridge only lasted until 1863. A ferry once again was put into service. In 1869, a Roebling suspension bridge was constructed. That bridge lasted until it was carried away by a flood in 1888.
Opened to traffic on December 30, 1953, the bridge is a 1,150-foot-long four-span continuous steel deck truss structure. It was selected as one of the 10 most beautiful steel bridges in the 26th annual (1953) national aesthetic bridge competition sponsored by the American Institute of Steel Construction. The judges noted that the bridge’s design “exhibits a fine sense of proportion and that the deck-type construction affords unlimited visibility in a scenic area which will be appreciated by the traveler.”
It is the only deck-truss bridge owned and operated by the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission. The two-lane bridge has a roadway width of 27-feet 6-inches, with a 4-foot pedestrian sidewalk attached to its upriver truss. A one-way toll plaza, located at the Pennsylvania approach, has three toll lanes. Tolls are collected in the westbound direction.
The bridge consists of 1,627 tons of structural steel and 7,402 cubic yards of concrete. Its deck towers above the Delaware River below. Its low point — on the Pennsylvania end — is 106 feet above the river’s normal low-water mark. The bridge deck’s altitude is 480 feet above mean sea level at Sandy Hook, N.J. The structure’s height was a ramification of the original 1950s design, which anticipated the construction of the proposed Tocks Island Dam and a corresponding 37-mile lake between New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
The Commission rehabilitated the bridge under a $19.1 million project that began in February 2008 and reached substantial completion shortly before Memorial Day in May 2009. The project consisted of the replacement of the bridge’s precast concrete deck panels; replacement of deteriorated supporting stringers and truss members; and blast-cleaning and painting of the entire steel superstructure. The project also included repairs or replacement of the Pennsylvania and New Jersey approaches, and installations of new signage installed on the bridge’s approaches.
The previous toll plaza was replaced with a new facility that has two new mixed-mode toll booths for processing both cash and E-ZPass electronic transactions, and an additional single lane to handle only E-ZPass customers.
Like other bridge rehabilitations the Commission conducted, the Milford-Montague project was undertaken to improve the bridge’s condition so that it can operate without the need for delay-causing repairs for at least another 15 years.