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New Jersey Starts Transition to Cashless Toll Collection

Work is expected to begin on the $30.59 million all-electric collection system in late 2024 or early 2025, though the ceremonial start began on Monday. Approximately 88 percent of Atlantic City Expressway customers use E-ZPass.

new jersey transit officials during a ceremonial groundbreaking
New Jersey Department of Transportation Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti, center in the checkered blazer, shovels dirt with other officials during a ceremonial groundbreaking for constriction of all electronic toll collection gantries that will replace toll plazas on the Atlantic City Expressway by May 2025. (Larry Higgs/
The eventual end of the ritual of stopping to pay a toll took the first steps Monday, Oct. 30, with a ceremonial start of construction of the first all-electronic toll collection system in the state on the Atlantic City Expressway in Egg Harbor, N.J.

The cashless, all electronic system system that is scheduled to be operational by May 2025 is New Jersey’s first all-electronic toll collection system and could be used on the state’s other toll roads.

The system could help end the frustrating back up drivers experience at toll plazas in the summer when the Expressway sees the highest Jersey Shore bound traffic volume. It also is a step in a larger, nationwide goal of having toll tags such as E-Zpass accepted on any toll road or river crossing in the nation, said New Jersey Department of Transportation Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti.

Immediate benefits include making trips safer by eliminating traffic back-ups at toll plazas, she said.

“We will reduce accidents by getting rid of toll plazas and reducing rear end collisions,” she said at the ceremony. “It will help cut and maintain costs. All electronic tolling will allow significant savings.”

A larger issue is allowing the Expressway to increase “interoperability” between toll agencies across the country, allowing drivers to use their E-Zpass anywhere, Gutierrez-Scaccetti said. “So you can bring your own toll tag (on vacation) and put it in a rental car,” she said. ‘The International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association is working to make toll collection seamless.”

That goal is still a work in progress, and the EZ-Pass consortium and other agencies are working on working on it, she said.

Work is expected to start on the $30.59 million construction project in late 2024 or early 2025, said Stephen F. Dougherty, South Jersey Transportation Authority executive director. Plans call for construction of overhead toll gantries in 11 locations on the Atlantic City Expressway that will support cashless toll collection equipment first, and then demolition of existing toll plazas.

“It’s about a seamless transition from the bridge to the ocean,” said U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross, D-1st Dist., who talked about how he travels the Expressway as much as four times a day. “We need to take the plans from the SJTA and replicate it in the state and the rest of the country.”

Roughly 88 percent of AC Expressway customers use E-ZPass, and officials have mounted a social media and public relations campaign to get more drivers using it, officials said. Even signs post in toll plazas ask cash drivers “What are you waiting for?”

The 47-mile Expressway is the first of the state’s three major toll highways that is switching to all-electronic toll collection. Roughly 3.7 million toll paying vehicles used the expressway in April.

The Atlantic City Expressway design could be used on the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway.

“We first visited it in 2006, but we couldn’t put a shovel in the ground,” said Dougherty, who credited Joel T. Falk, SJTA Director of Information and Tolls Technology, and Gutierrez-Scaccetti, who is also chairperson of the SJTA board, for keeping the idea alive and proceeding with it.

“Joel believed developing a unified toll system and that he could start it in New Jersey,” Dougherty said. “It took lots of hard work and commitment to turn all electronic toll collection in to reality.”

The commissioner “drove the idea forward,” he said. In September 2022, the authority awarded a $159 million contract to TransCore LP of Nashville to design, build, maintain and operate an all-electronic toll collection system that could be used on the Expressway as well as the Garden State Parkway and New Jersey Turnpike.

The metal gantries will look similar to the steel structures seen on the Parkway that support overhead road and video messaging signs, according to bid documents. Gantry structures also will support toll readers and cameras, in addition to signs.

Those gantries also will be constructed to leave space for an additional lane for a proposed project to widen a two-lane, 13-mile section of the Atlantic City Expressway by adding a third lane in both directions along the center median from Winslow Township to the Route 42 terminus in Gloucester Township.

Once the switch is flipped to activate cashless tolling, what drivers will experience is similar to what motorists do at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s bridges and tunnels — they continue driving and don’t stop to pay tolls.

While most toll payers in New Jersey and on the expressway have E-ZPass accounts, cash customers will see the biggest change. A photo will be taken of their vehicle as it passes under the toll gantry, and a bill for the toll will be sent to the registered owner.

The Turnpike Authority would have the option to piggyback on the expressway contract when it comes time to switch to all-electronic tolls on the Garden State Parkway and New Jersey Turnpike, officials of that authority said in earlier interviews.

Turnpike Authority officials were among the officials at the groundbreaking ceremony.

©2023 Advance Local Media LLC. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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