NEW JERSEY – The Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission (DRJTBC) is urging cash toll payers to register for E-ZPass before a new two-tier toll schedule with higher cash rates goes into effect this Sunday, April 11 – the agency’s first system-wide toll adjustment since 2011.
The new toll schedule utilizes a two-tier pricing framework that assigns lower rates to E-ZPass transactions, which are less costly to process, and higher rates to Cash/TOLL BY PLATE transactions, which are more costly to process. The Commission’s only TOLL BY PLATE facility is the new Scudder Falls (I-295) Toll Bridge, which has an all-electronic toll collection system. The Commission’s seven other toll bridges have E-ZPass/Cash toll-collection facilities.
Under the new toll schedule, the Commission’s most frequent toll transaction – a passenger vehicle equipped with E-ZPass – will rise 25 cents to a $1.25 charge system-wide. Passenger-vehicle operators paying with cash, however, will be charged $3 starting Sunday — a rate that is 140 percent more than the comparable E-ZPass passenger vehicle charge.
This two-tier pricing method is a prevailing trend among toll agencies nationally because it helps cover the increased processing costs associated with cash or license-plate-billing collection methods. This change also will end the current situation where E-ZPass customers are effectively subsidizing the toll collection costs of individuals paying with cash.
In 2019, slightly more than 75 percent of toll transactions at DRJTBC bridges were handled by E-ZPass. In 2020, nearly 80 percent of the agency’s toll transactions were through E-ZPass – but that figure is skewed higher by emergency “Toll-by-Mail” billing that took place during the COVID spike between late March and early May.
The Commission’s seven E-ZPass/Cash tolling points are as follows:
- Trenton-Morrisville (Route 1) Toll Bridge
- New Hope-Lambertville (Route 202) Toll Bridge
- I-78 Toll Bridge
- Easton-Phillipsburg (Route 22) Toll Bridge
- Portland-Columbia (Routes 611, 46, 94) Toll Bridge
- Delaware Water Gap (I-80) Toll Bridge
- Milford-Montague (Route 206) Toll Bridge
The Commission already has a two-tier pricing schedule in effect at its new Scudder Falls (I-295) Toll Bridge, which is the agency’s only cashless all-electronic tolling (AET) point handling E-ZPass and TOLL BY PLATE transactions. The current $1.25 E-ZPass car rate at that location will remain unchanged but the comparable TOLL BY PLATE car rate will rise by 40 cents to a $3 rate on Sunday.
The DRJTBC classifies motor vehicles strictly by the number of rolling axles and height. Starting Sunday, a toll customer’s preferred method of payment will now be added as a third factor in the computation of toll charges. Tolls are assessed in the Pennsylvania-bound direction at all Commission tolling points.
All vehicle classes – including trucks, non-bumper-hitch combo configurations, and commercial vehicles – will be affected by the new toll rate schedule that is lined up to take effect on Sunday. The new toll schedule also makes changes to the Commission’s two remaining E-ZPass discount programs. On Sunday, the Commission’s current off-peak E-ZPass truck discount (a 10-percent reduction for vehicles eight-feet and above in height traveling between 9:01 p.m. and 5:59 p.m. daily) will be eliminated. Meanwhile, the agency’s current 40-percent frequency-based E-ZPass commuter discount will be pared to a 20-percent reduction starting May 1 and subsequently phased out completely in January 2024. (The commuter discount can only be applied to accounts managed by the Commission’s toll processing service provider, the regional New Jersey E-ZPass Customer Service Center. A motorist must record 16 more tolled trips across Commission bridges in a respective calendar month to receive the discount as a retroactive credit on a subsequent E-ZPass bill.)
Once implemented, both the $1.25 personal vehicle E-ZPass rate and the corresponding $3 personal vehicle Cash/TOLL BY PLATE rate will continue to be the lowest of any public toll agency along the Delaware River. The new commercial vehicle rate changes are modest compared to the personal vehicle changes, a factor that will maintain the Commission’s competitive edge for movements of overland freight across the river Pennsylvania-bound.
Noting the impending two-tier toll pricing structure, the Commission is urging Cash customers to acquire E-ZPass as soon as possible. The lower E-ZPass rates apply to transponders issued by any E-ZPass-issuing toll agency. However, the frequency-based commuter discount can only be calculated and applied to transponders administered by the Commission’s toll processor – the regional NJ E-ZPass Customer Service Center.
The quickest means of securing a Commission-affiliated E-ZPass account is by having a credit card account and going online at www.ezpassnj.com (click on the Sign Up for E-ZPass tab). The customer service center also may be reached by phone – 1-888-AUTO TOLL (1-888-288-6865) – but wait times for a service representative can be long.
The Commission proposed the new toll schedule on February 1, triggering a 26-day public comment period that included three virtual hearings. The bi-state agency’s board of commissioners approved the toll changes at their March 29 meeting.
The Commission said the toll changes are needed to offset continuing COVID-19-induced toll revenue declines, ensure payment of financial obligations, provide funding for planned capital projects throughout the agency’s Pennsylvania-New Jersey service region, and establish a two-tier rate structure that price tolls according to the payment method a customer uses to pay his/her respective toll.
The major changes to the agency’s toll-rate schedules are summarized as follows:
- Provide a uniform toll schedule for the DRJTBC’s eight toll bridges at: Milford-Montague (Route 206), Delaware Water Gap (I-80), Portland-Columbia (Routes 611, 46 and 94), Easton-Phillipsburg (Route 22), I-78, New Hope-Lambertville (Route 202), Scudder Falls (I-295) and Trenton-Morrisville (Route 1).
- Establish a two-tier toll adjustment for Class 1 passenger vehicles starting April 11; to $1.25 for E-ZPass, $3 for cash, and $3 for TOLL BY PLATE (Scudder Falls).
- Set the added toll for Class 1 passenger vehicles with bumper-hitch trailers in tow at $2 starting April 11.
- Authorize the Class 1 E-ZPass passenger vehicle toll to be $1.50 in January 2024.
- Maintain a frequency-based Class 1 E-ZPass commuter discount for 2021 through 2023 at 20 percent (applied retroactively on 16 or more trips across DRJTBC toll bridges in a calendar month with a Commission-affiliated E-ZPass tag) starting May 1.
- Eliminate the Class 1 E-ZPass commuter discount in its entirety in January 2024.
- Establish a uniform commercial vehicle rate table (Class 2 and above) and set new two-tier rates for trucks, buses and other commercial vehicles (defined as any vehicle with two or more axles and eight-feet or above in height) at $4.50 per-axle for E-ZPass, $5 per-axle for cash, and $5 per-axle for TOLL BY PLATE (Scudder Falls) starting April 11.
- Eliminate the off-peak E-ZPass discount for commercial vehicles (Class 2 and above) starting April 11.
In addition to its eight highway toll bridges, the Commission owns and operates 12 non-revenue-generating “toll-supported” bridges along the fresh-water portion of the Delaware River separating New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The agency also has 73 lane miles of road surface, 34 short-distance approach bridges (overpasses or viaducts) and various other maintenance and operational facilities.
The Commission is funded strictly by the tolls it collects at its eight toll bridges. It does not receive state or federal subsidies to run its transportation system and services. The Commission is unique among other toll agencies in the region because it is legally obligated – under identical statutes enacted by both states and ratified by Congress under the Compact clause of the U.S. Constitution — to use a share of its tolls to operate and maintain 10 older low-capacity non-highway vehicular bridges and two other pedestrian-only crossings along the river. The Commission refers to these 12 spans as “toll-supported bridges.”