At the end of this month, the New Jersey Turnpike will begin using a long-awaited cashless toll system -- and implement its first toll increase since 1991.
According to Associated Press reports, the final addition to the turnpike’s E-ZPass system will begin operations Sept. 30. A windshield-mounted electronic "tag" will allow truckers and motorists to travel from Buffalo, N.Y., over the crossings to New York City, through New Jersey and Delaware or across the Pennsylvania Turnpike without pulling out their wallet.
Turnpike executive director Edward Gross told the AP that the turnpike will be the first major highway in the nation to implement "value pricing" -- off-peak discounts, which he said will help ease congestion.
The turnpike is getting the E-Z Pass system more than two years later than expected. About 600,000 vehicles use the turnpike each weekday.
With the toll increase, truckers paying cash will pay about 13 percent more. Truckers with E-ZPass will pay 8 percent more. Passenger cars donning an E-ZPass will have to dole out an extra 8 percent during peak periods and weekends but will pay current rates during off-peak hours -- a discount not available to truckers.
However, truckers who already have charge accounts with the Turnpike will get a break in that they will have 30 days to pay their tolls rather than putting money up front as E-ZPass customers normally must do.
It now costs $18.20 to drive an 18-wheeler the length of the Turnpike from the Delaware Memorial Bridge and Philadelphia in the south to the George Washington Bridge and New York City in the north. The Sept. 30 increase will raise that to approximately $19.65 for E-ZPass customers and $20.56 for cash customers. A second toll increase on January 1, 2003 will raise big truck tolls to $21.22 with E-ZPass and $23.23 without.
The turnpike is the last of New Jersey's three toll roads to get E-ZPass. All 27 toll plazas on the turnpike will implement the system at the same time because the turnpike tolls are calculated based on where a vehicle enters and exits the superhighway.
The toll increase will fund nearly $1 billion in turnpike improvements.