Motorists crossing the Scudder Falls Bridge in the future may have to pay a toll as they pass from New Jersey to Pennsylvania, but they will not have to stop at a toll booth, even if they don’t have an E-Z Pass transponder.
The Times of Trenton has reported the project still faces political opposition from lawmakers Shirley K. Turner, state senator from Lawrence, Michael Doherty, a senator from Warren, although it has the support of the governor.
The New Jersey side of the bridge is located in Ewing Township, where Mayor Bert Steinmann and previous mayor Jack Ball have also voiced opposition to turning the bridge, now free, into a toll span. Steinmann has said he believes the tolls will hurt township residents’ pocketbooks.
The bridge is planned to include an all-electronic toll system that will photograph drivers’ license plates as they pass. If they do not have E-Z Pass, they will receive a bill at their home or business for the toll plus a yet-to-be-announced “administrative fee.” Motorists may also register their license plates with the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission to get a discount.
Electronic toll equipment will be mounted on an overhead gantry structure on the Pennsylvania side of the bridge.
The $328 million bridge replacement project will replace the existing 1960s I-95 bridge with a widened and redesigned structure. It is scheduled to begin next year and take four years to complete.
The bridge would not be the region’s first toll bridge to eliminate the toll booth. The Henry Hudson Bridge in New York has such a system, which charges $2.20 to E-Z Pass customers and $4 to those without the service. The Garden State Parkway is scheduled to implement a similar system in July.
Other all-electronic toll projects planned throughout the country include the Pennsylvania Turnpike and the Tappan Zee Bridge. Toll booths have been eliminated already on the Florida Turnpike in Miami, the Golden Gate Bridge, and other roads throughout the country and in countries around the world.
Although all-electronic toll collection systems have obvious advantages, some have criticized them for reducing the privacy of travelers. Andrew J. Blumberg and Peter Eckersley of the Electronic Frontier Foundation wrote an essay in 2009 criticizing the automated toll schemes for collecting information on the movements of private citizens. They argued that such information is a violation of “locational privacy” and could be used for nefarious purposes.
The New Jersey politicians did not cite privacy as a reason for opposing the toll bridge plan.
The Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission says the cashless system will allow traffic to flow at highway speeds, reducing traffic jams and pollution while increasing fuel efficiency and improving safety. According to studies by the DRJTBC, the current four-lane span is the scene of daily rush hour traffic jams, and the number of cars traveling over the bridge will increase 30 percent by 2030.