By Henrietta Fishman
The Port Authority on Thursday approved installing cashless tolls at the George Washington Bridge and Lincoln and Holland tunnels.
The agency will spend $240 million to replace the existing toll collection system at the crossings by 2021, NJ.com reported.
The George Washington Bridge, Lincoln and Holland tunnels will join two of the authority’s Staten Island crossings that already have cashless toll collection.
The agency’s board approved $240 million in contracts to do the work at the three Hudson River crossings and hire Conduent State & Local Solutions, Inc. to add the system to the E-Z Pass work it already does for the authority, NJ.com explained.
Motorists with E-ZPass will pass under a system that will debit the toll from their accounts. Those who don’t have E-ZPass will have a photo taken of their license plates and get a bill in the mail. The Port Authority says the technology will reduce travel time and crashes.
For the close to 88% of drivers who now use E-Z Pass to pay tolls, this won’t change much, except for some toll plaza traffic patterns and hopefully, reducing some of the traffic, NJ.com reported.
Building gantries to hang the toll readers and cameras on, modifying the approach roads and demolishing toll plazas is estimated to cost $89 million at the bridge and $60 million at the two tunnels.
This is also part of the broader congestion pricing plan. Port Authority officials expect 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.
Thirty-four states have toll roads, according to International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association, which represents owners and operators of toll facilities At least 23 of them use some type of electronic tolling in combination with a cash payment system.
Toll collector jobs have dwindled and will continue to do so.
“It is a dying profession,” Bill Cramer, communications director for the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association, explained to Pew research group.
A growing number of states are eliminating toll plazas entirely in some areas and moving to all-electronic systems. At least six — California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts and Texas — have swapped traditional toll booths for cashless systems on some roads or bridges, Cramer said. That allows drivers to zip past without having to slow down or queue into single-file lanes. This fast convenience is what we will see at the 3 Hudson crossings.
On San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, for instance, officials did away with toll booths two years ago and moved to an all-electronic system. Twenty-eight full-time toll collector jobs were eliminated. Some transitioned to other position, Pew Research documented.