Hello cashless tolls, goodbye carpool discounts for NJ drivers on the GWB
It's a new era in toll collection on the George Washington Bridge when the world's busiest crossing goes all cashless in the early hours of Sunday morning.
It is also the first step toward potential increased costs for New Jersey commuters.
The existing toll plazas will close and soon will be demolished. Traffic will be directed to drive at highway speed under newly built gantries that will read E-ZPass transponders.
For vehicles without E-ZPass, pictures will be taken of license plates and a bill will be sent in the mail for toll payment.
“We are extremely pleased with the activation of this best-in-class, all-electronic technology that will assure quick, accurate, electronic toll billing at the GWB," Port Authority Chairman Kevin O’Toole said in a statement.
The last Port Authority crossing to accept cash, the Lincoln Tunnel, is scheduled to go cashless by the end of the year.
End of carpool discounts
The change also means that carpool discounts, which relied on the toll taker to count the number of passengers, will no longer apply. The Port Authority contends there is no reliable way to electronically count occupants.
U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J. 5th District, disagrees and said toll roads in Massachusetts, California, Georgia, Tennessee and Virginia are already using camera technology on their toll roads to count passengers. He cites Xerox’s Vehicle Passenger Detection System as being 95% accurate, compared to 36% when humans are counting.
"I’ve said it time and time again, but the Port Authority just won’t listen," Gottheimer told New Jersey 101.5 in a statement. "We can have cashless tolls and a carpool discount lane, but the Port Authority would rather unnecessarily tax Jersey drivers. It’s extremely disappointing."
Gottheimer said the timing is poor with the higher gas prices and inflation and called it another tax on commuters.
"The Port Authority wants to charge New Jersey commuters thousands of dollars a year in new tolls, add a ton of new cars onto the bridge, and create more air pollution. That’s a lose-lose-lose for absolutely everyone,” Gottheimer said.
Congestion pricing sooner rather than later?
New Jersey drivers also face the prospect of congestion pricing that would add another $9 to $35 that would be collected electronically on commuters who drive into Manhattan below 60th Street.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul during the gubernatorial debate in June said she is 100% in favor of congestion pricing. The Democrat said she has met with federal officials in an attempt to speed up the process to implement the pricing.
Gottheimer and Gov. Phil Murphy have vowed to fight the plan with the New Jersey governor potentially holding the biggest tool to stop it from being implemented. Calling it the "nuclear option," Murphy said he could veto the minutes of Port Authority meetings, which would essentially freeze all operations including the budget process.