It’s official. Drivers can kiss the hated traffic lines and lane changes at the Port Authority’s (PA) Hudson River crossings toll plazas goodbye.
Cashless toll collection is coming to the George Washington Bridge, Lincoln and Holland tunnels. Officials provided some details about how it will work, after PA commissioners approved $240 million in contracts to make it happen on Thursday.
The big benefits for drivers will be in easing the pain of traffic delays and reducing crashes around the existing toll plazas, which will be demolished.
“We are talking about a reduction in travel times for customers,” said Diannae Ehler, Port Authority director of tunnels, bridges and terminals. “An inordinate number of crashes occur before and after the toll plazas.”
Now, there are 1,200 crashes a year around toll plazas, a number that will be reduced by 75% or 975 collisions, said Kevin O’Toole, board chairman.
The authority also will see a “considerable savings” in time to investigate and clean up after a crash.
Eliminating the need for drivers to stop or slow down to pay a toll also will have an environmental benefit, O’Toole said. Cashless toll collection is predicted to save 210 driving hours annually in delays, save 230,000 gallons of fuel burned annually and reduce 228 metric tons of CO2 emissions, O’Toole said.
For E-ZPass users, nothing will change, except there may be less of a traffic tangle where toll booths will be demolished. Drivers will pass under gantries supporting cameras and E-ZPass readers.
Drivers who used to pay cash will get a bill in the mail for the toll. They will then have 60 days to pay before it becomes a $50 violation and they’ll receive two warning notices before that happens.
The goal is to have it up and running sometime in early 2021.
No toll collectors will be laid off, officials said. The authority is working with the toll collectors union to place workers in other positions in the agency.
Thursday’s vote puts the authority’s slow roll towards going cash free at bridges and tunnels in the final stage.
Cashless tolling started at the Bayonne Bridge in 2017 and expanded to the Outerbridge Crossing. The new Goethals Bridge will lose its toll booths in the third quarter of this year, officials said.
The Port Authority authorized buying equipment for cashless tolling in 2016 as part of a $170 million project to upgrade and replace old toll collection equipment at its bridges and tunnels.
The action delivers on a promise to have cashless collection systems in place by 2021, when New York City officials plan to implement congestion pricing, a program where drivers would be charged a toll if they enter Manhattan below 60th Street.
The governors of New York and New Jersey have said cashless tolling is necessary to implement congestion pricing, which is designed to generate funding for the NYC Subway system and some MTA commuter rail service and reduce traffic congestion in Manhattan.
A report that proposed the current congestion pricing plan suggested a toll credit for New Jersey drivers going through the Lincoln and Holland tunnels. Still to be resolved by an MTA traffic panel is whether they will get a credit for their toll at the George Washington Bridge.
By Larry Higgs / NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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