Turner: Delaware River Crossing Toll Hikes Ill-Timed, Bad For Commuters And Jersey’s River Communities

Senator Opposes Increases From Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission

TRENTON – Senator Shirley Turner today voiced her strong opposition to Monday’s decision by the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission to raise the toll rates on seven bridges, saying the move will backfire as commuters will flock to the commission’s non-toll bridges and clog small-town streets.

“The simple fact is that with gas prices where they are, drivers are going to try to find any way possible to keep a few extra bucks in their pocket,” said Turner (D-Mercer). “In the local communities where the Commission has a toll bridge, a non-toll bridge is not far away. There is no reason to think that tax-weary commuters will not stop using the toll bridges and head for the non-toll crossings. And when they do, traffic in our river towns will increase dramatically.”

The Senator said she will introduce a Senate resolution opposing the toll hike.

On Monday, the Commission’s board voted to increase the basic toll for cars at its seven toll bridges to $1 from 75 cents – the discounted cost for a regular EZPass commuter will be 60 cents per crossing, up from the prior 45 cents. For daily commuters, that increase would amount to roughly $40 a year in additional tolls.

Turner noted that there are already significant rush-hour delays on two non-toll bridges connecting Trenton and Morrisville, PA – the Calhoun Street and “Trenton Makes” bridges. Those spans carry drivers looking to avoid tolls on Route 1.

The Senator noted that traffic also is heavy on the Lambertville-New Hope bridge, which is located just south of the Route 202 toll bridge.

“When these toll hikes kick in, traffic on these already crowded non-toll bridges is going to become even worse,” said Turner. “Cars already clog up the last exit in New Jersey to avoid paying the toll on Route 1, leading to a traffic standstill in Trenton. I expect Lambertville will similarly be impacted.”

Tolls also were increased for trucks, most of which are banned from the non-toll bridges. The new tolls are expected to bring in $24 million annually, and the Commission said it had to raise the tolls, in part, to “offset lingering diminished truck revenue collection resulting from the 2008-2009 recession.”

Turner said that even if truck traffic increases from its current level, she would expect the exodus of cars from the toll bridges to erode the Commission’s projected revenues.

“In this economic climate, this toll hike is ill-timed,” said Turner. “I see nothing to suggest the plan will work while seeing plenty to suggest it’s going to diminish the quality of life for residents in our river towns.”