PA Turnpike Introduces Cashless Tolling at Delaware River Bridge

Drivers will be charged by E-ZPass or get billed in the mail after a camera takes a photo of their license plate. They won't have to slow down for the toll.

PA Turnpike - Delaware River bridge map

Map courtesy of the Pennsylvania Turnpike

You don’t have to stop to pay tolls on the Delaware River-Turnpike Bridge.

That doesn’t mean you won’t be paying them, though. In a change that went into effect on January 3rd, there are no more cash tolls on the bridge that connects the eastern end of the Pennsylvania Turnpike with the New Jersey Turnpike. Motorists who cross over the bridge headed into Pennsylvania will pay $5 if they have E-ZPass. Those without EZ Pass will receive a bill in the mail for $6.75.

“The new bridge toll will be collected automatically at highway speed so Turnpike travelers will not have to stop, which is safer and more convenient than stopping at a tollbooth,” Turnpike CEO Mark Compton said in a release. “The cashless toll is a one-way toll, meaning eastbound Turnpike travelers driving into New Jersey will no longer pay at this location, though the decommissioned Delaware River Bridge toll plaza will remain in place for a time.”

After crossing the bridge into Pennsylvania, drivers can get off onto Route 13 without paying an additional fee. Those without E-ZPass who are staying on the turnpike will then take a ticket at the new Neshaminy Falls toll plaza, which is now the eastern terminus of the ticketed system. Those with E-ZPass can continue through Neshaminy Falls at 55 miles per hour.

No toll collectors were laid off with the new system; all were re-assigned to other interchanges and toll plazas. Cameras will photograph the license plates of cars without E-ZPass headed over the bridge. Car owners will get bills in the mail starting the week of January 25th. Turnpike spokesperson Carl DeFebo explains owners won’t get a bill each time they pass over the bridge. Bills will come about once a month, or maybe every other week for frequent travelers.

So what happens if you don’t pay your bill? You’ll get two notices informing you before the payment is sent to a collections agency. This is almost the exact same system the Turnpike uses when a driver without E-ZPass exits at one of the Turnpike’s four E-ZPass-only exits. (“It’s not uncommon for people to follow their GPS, which tells them to exit there,” DeFebo says.) The only difference is that carries an additional fee, since it’s considered a violation.

There’s no “enforcement hammer” to force drivers to pay their tolls, DeFebo says. Several states in New England can suspend driver registrations for unpaid bills, but there is no such law in Pennsylvania. But the Turnpike is optimistic: At this toll plaza, DeFebo says, 80 percent of drivers already use EZPass.

The new interchange is not just the first toll-by-plate system on the system. It’s also part of the long-delayed $1.5 billion project that will connect the Turnpike with I-95 in Bristol. When that’s completed, the portion of I-95 currently north of the interchange will be designated I-295, while the turnpike will pick up the I-95 designation in New Jersey. There will still not be an eastbound toll over the Turnpike Bridge at that time. (And don’t worry, Bucks County: This doesn’t mean any portion of what’s currently I-95 will become tolled.) The toll will fund the renovation, which is scheduled to be completed in 2018.

“This is a vital project for the commission and the region and an essential first step in creating a long-awaited direct link between the Turnpike and I-95,” said Turnpike Chairman Sean Logan. “These modifications are necessary to facilitate the nonstop flow of traffic between Interstate 95 and the Turnpike when the link between the two interstates opens in late 2018.”

The old Delaware River and Delaware Valley toll plazas will be demolished in the coming months. Currently, motorists still have to slow down to pass through the old plazas, but they’ll be able to proceed at regular speed once they’re gone. “People have stopped there,” DeFebo says. “We have ‘Keep moving’ signs pasted up all over the place there. We’ve seen a couple people stopping, looking around at the toll booth, figuring out what to do. It’s not a major problem — someone will beep you if you’re in front of them to tell you to go.”

The turnpike will be opening a second toll-by-plate interchange in the fall that will connect the turnpike with the Beaver Valley Expressway near Pittsburgh. Like the first, there will not be any layoffs associated with that change. Both toll plazas will be studied to see what the next steps will be. The system could be rolled out for future turnpike tolls in the future, but there are no concrete plans for that at the moment.

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