NJ Closes Deal for All Electronic Toll Systems on AC Expressway

Drivers who still use cash to pay tolls may begin the long goodbyes to handing over bills and coins to toll collectors in New Jersey.

The first all-electronic toll system on a New Jersey toll road is coming to the Atlantic City Expressway after the South Jersey Transportation Authority board approved a contract Thursday. That system could eventually be used on the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway.

The board of the authority on Thursday approved a $159 million contract with TransCore LP of Nashville, Tennessee to design and build a fully electronic toll collection system.

The all-electronic toll collection could go into effect in time for Memorial Day 2025, said Kimberly Testa, an SJTA spokeswoman.

“The contract awarded this morning represents SJTA’s costs for All Electronic Tolling (AET) not exceeding $159.3 million,” she said. “The contract includes the $41.8 million project implementation. This includes options that may or may not be implemented by the Authority.”

The contract includes $117.5 million to operate and maintain the cashless toll system for years 3 to 15, Testa said.

Implementing cashless, fully electronic toll collection was one of the projects included in the AC Expressway and New Jersey Turnpike Authority’s capital plans funded by a toll increase on the three toll roads that took effect September 13, 2020. project is funded through the SJTA’s $500 million capital plan.

In January, the authority that runs the 47-mile Atlantic City Expressway asked for proposals from companies to provide a turnkey, fully electronic toll collection system that could be extended to all public tolling authorities in the state, according to documents released by the government. released by the South. Jersey Transport Authority.

Three companies submitted proposals, Testa said. A committee including South Jersey and Turnpike Authority representatives met several times over the summer to review the proposals and negotiated with TransCore, according to SJTA documents.

TransCore is expected to design, develop, install, test, operate and maintain a “fully functional, turnkey all-electronic toll system” that can be expanded to the Parkway and Turnpike.

What that means for Jersey toll road drivers is that they will see more of what happened at nearly all of the Hudson River Port Authority crossings — toll plazas and booths will be demolished and replaced with gantries with overhead cameras and toll readers. That Authority’s Staten Island Bridges, the Holland Tunnel, and the George Washington Bridge collect tolls electronically.

For drivers with an E-ZPass account, going fully electronic will be a seamless change. For drivers accustomed to handling cash at a toll collector, their experience will change and be similar to what happened during the COVID-19 pandemic, when toll offices used ‘pay by license plate’.

Under that system, a camera takes a picture of a vehicle’s license plate and a bill for the toll is sent to the registered owner. The owner is given a certain amount of time to pay the toll without paying a fee.

E-ZPass is the dominant way most motorists pay their toll. In July, 91.3% of New Jersey Turnpike drivers and 89.5% of Garden State Parkway drivers paid with E-ZPass, according to Turnpike Authority statistics for July. On the highway, 85.6% of drivers paid electronically.

The Turnpike Authority would have the option to piggyback on the Expressway contract when it comes time to switch to fully electronic tolls on the Parkway and Turnpike, said Tom Feeney, an Authority spokesman in January.

The price marks the end of what has been a slow roll toward cashless tolling by national toll roads, which have delayed going cashless for years, citing concerns about losses from toll laws.

In 2011, the unions of toll collectors Turnpike and Parkway granted a number of contract concessions and the authority dropped threats to privatize the toll collection, but the prospect of going cashless was awakened. At the time, officials predicted the full electronic toll collection would take another two years. Collectors signed a new contract in December 2020, which some considered their last contract, for 550 people.

Cashless toll collection was temporarily used by toll agencies during the height of the coronavirus pandemic, which began in March 2020, to reduce cash handling and the potential spread of COVID-19 on the Expressway, Parkway and Turnpike. But the state’s three main toll roads returned to tolling in May 2020.

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Larry Higgs can be reached at [email protected]

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