YARDLEY, PA – The Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission (DRJTBC) today announced plans to convert its entire network of toll bridges to cashless all-electronic toll (AET) collections by January 2025.
The transition is set to begin with a phased-in “soft conversion” introduction of TOLL BY PLATE functionality at the Commission’s seven conventional E-ZPass/cash tolling points next month. Currently, only the Commission’s new Scudder Falls (I-295) Toll Bridge has a cashless toll collection system with TOLL BY PLATE service for non-E-ZPass customers. The Commission’s seven older toll bridges only accept E-ZPass or cash.
TOLL BY PLATE involves the capturing of a vehicle’s license plate information so the registered owner can be mailed a bill for payment. The Commission’s toll rates are structured so E-ZPass users pay lower rates while cash and TOLL BY PLATE customers pay higher rates due to the increased cost to collect. The Commission’s TOLL BY PLATE car toll is $3, the same as cash. In comparison, the E-ZPass car toll will be $1.50 in 2024.
TOLL BY PLATE Implementation Schedule
The low-volume New Hope-Lambertville (Route 202) Toll Bridge is slated to be the first Commission tolling point where TOLL BY PLATE billing will be offered as a third payment option in addition to cash and E-ZPass. The start date for this location is January 17, allowing the bridge to serve as a week-long testing site for introducing the third-payment option at the Commission’s remaining E-ZPass/cash tolling points.
Under the current soft-conversion phase schedule, the TOLL BY PLATE payment option would be expanded to the six remaining toll bridges on January 24. These bridges are Trenton-Morrisville (Route 1); I-78; Easton-Phillipsburg (Route 22); Portland-Columbia (Routes 611, 46, and 94); Delaware Water Gap (I-80); and Milford-Montague (Route 206).
These locations have “barrier” toll plazas where E-ZPass is accepted in all lanes and where toll collectors in designated booths accept cash and make change. Two bridges – I-78 and Delaware Water Gap (I-80) – also have adjoining Express E-ZPass gantries where E-ZPass-equipped motorists can pay tolls while moving at highway speeds.
TOLL BY PLATE Billing Option Process
The January phase-in of a TOLL BY PLATE payment option will enable non-E-ZPass-equipped motorists to pay tolls if they do not pay cash at a toll booth. Currently, a motorist is issued a violation notice when he or she travels through a tolling point in this manner.
Once TOLL BY PLATE is implemented at a respective toll plaza, a motorist without E-ZPass and who does not pay cash will have his or her vehicle license plate image captured by an overhead camera.
Payment can be mailed, or the billed individual can go online to pay with a credit card through the New Jersey E-ZPass website. Individuals wishing to pay their toll bill by cash currently have limited options: they can either travel to the New Jersey E-ZPass Customer Service Center’s walk-in centers in Newark, N.J., Camden, N.J. and New Castle, DE. Those addresses are available at this webpage: https://www.ezpassnj.com/en/about/csc.shtml.
If payment is not received by the bill’s prescribed deadline (usually 30 days of issuance), a second bill gets generated with an additional $5 toll bill late fee.
Failure to pay this second billing on time will result in the TOLL BY PLATE bill being escalated to a toll violation. The $5 toll bill late fee will be waived, a $30 administration fee will be assessed for each overdue toll, and a violation notice will be mailed to the vehicle owner.
If the new escalated amount owed is not paid by the first violation notice’s payment deadline, a second violation notice will be sent. If the amount owed is not paid by the second violation notice’s payment deadline, the violation will be advanced to a collection agency.
TOLL BY PLATE Next Steps
The Commission plans to issue additional press releases and establish a new webpage on its website to explain the TOLL BY PLATE billing option. Signage changes at the toll plazas will be made prior to ending cash collection. An instructional video also is being discussed.
E-ZPass is the most convenient, efficient, and cheapest option for paying tolls. The Commission’s 2024 toll rates for E-ZPass transactions are up to 50-percent less than the rates for cash and TOLL BY PLATE transactions.
To establish an E-ZPass account with the Commission’s toll-processing service provider – the regional New Jersey E-ZPass Customer Service Center – go to: www.ezpassnj.com.
Next Steps Toward Cashless All-Electronic Tolling
After a roughly five-month introduction of system-wide TOLL BY PLATE billing, the Commission’s toll-collection conversion process will advance to a second phase called “AET in-place.” This is expected to occur in June 2024, when the agency’s three lowest-volume toll bridges – New Hope-Lambertville, Portland-Columbia, and Milford-Montague — will cease cash collections and handle solely all-electronic E-ZPass and TOLL BY PLATE transactions. A firm date for this conversion is to be announced in the spring.
Cashless AET collections are projected to be implemented in January 2025 at the Commission’s four remaining higher-volume toll bridges: Trenton-Morrisville, I-78, Easton-Phillipsburg, and Delaware Water Gap. A firm date for this conversion won’t be determined until late 2024.
A third “hard conversion phase” would then follow. This would involve removal of existing barrier toll plazas and the design and construction of highway-speed all-electronic tolling gantries at each of these locations. The design work of this “hard-conversion” process is expected to begin in 2024 and the first bridge to be outfitted with a cashless gantry would be the New Hope-Lambertville (Route 202) Toll Bridge sometime in 2025.
The current plan calls for hard conversions to be carried out at each of the Commission’s older toll bridges one at a time in each subsequent year, a process currently projected to be completed no later than 2032.
The Commission is joining an expanding list of toll agencies across the country that have eliminated or are in the process of eliminating cash collections. The Pennsylvania Turnpike, New York Thruway, South Jersey Transportation Authority (Atlantic City Expressway) and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (George Washington Bridge and Lincoln Tunnel) are among agencies that have made – or are making – the switch.
The Bridge Commission’s monthly E-ZPass penetration tables this year have shown electronic toll collections being used in 89 percent of transactions. In contrast, cash collections have dropped nearly 50 percent since 2020. The trendline for E-ZPass usage continues to go up and this has the potential to ease a transition to cashless collections.
“The clear majority of our toll-paying customers have embraced and expects highway-speed cashless all-electronic tolling with no stopping at all tolling points,” said DRJTBC Executive Director Joe Resta.
Cashless tolling has been shown to promote operational efficiency, reduce accidents and congestion at tolling points, improve safety, and mitigate environmental impacts such as exhaust and pollution from queuing cars and trucks in toll-booth lanes.
The conversion process will be carried out under the Commission’s rolling capital improvement program, which is funded by the tolls collected at the Commission’s eight tolled river crossings.
The “soft conversion’ costs involving roadway and toll plaza signage changes and establishment of walk-in centers for E-ZPass and TOLL BY PLATE payments is estimated to cost $4.9 million. The later “hard conversion” costs for removing existing toll plazas and constructing cashless AET gantries are estimated to be $69.7 million.
The Commission stopped hiring full-time toll collectors in early 2020. Largely through attrition of full-time toll collectors, the Commission’s fulltime workforce – largely consisting of toll collectors, bridge monitors, and maintenance personnel – has been reduced from 400 positions in 2019 to roughly 370 today.
Resta communicated to Commission staff earlier this year that management would make every effort to provide opportunities for toll staff to move to other positions within the Commission. Some have already moved to other positions, such as monitors at the Commission’s 10 low-volume weight-restricted bridges.