Delaware River tolls to rise tomorrow; but truck traffic on bridges way down already

| 12/31/2003

Just as truck tolls are set for another increase on bridges crossing the Delaware River, media outlets are reporting that traffic is way down on the seven bridges operated by the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission.

The Associated Press reported that on the Route 1 Toll Bridge between Trenton and Morrisville, truck traffic went from 48,824 in November 2002 to 33,448 in November 2003 – a decrease of 31.5 percent.

Truck traffic on the Route 202 bridge between New Hope and Lambertville was down by 28 percent, the news service said.

The drops are being linked to a series of increases in toll costs that are under way now. Before the increases began, the toll on a five-axle truck had run roughly $4 on five of the bridges, roughly 80 cents per axle.

Earlier this year, the tolls increased from that 80 cents to $2.25 an axle. On Jan. 1, they will increase to $2.75 an axle.

Tolls were scheduled to rise Jan. 1 to $3.25 an axle, but after enormous outcry from public officials and trucking interests, that increase was blunted to the $2.75 an axle level.

Even the blunted increase won’t last. The commission said truck tolls will still eventually rise to the $3.25 an axle level – meaning truckers who were paying $4 just a year ago will face a charge of $16.25 just to cross one bridge – more than 400 percent of the original toll.

As the tolls increased, truckers have sought out alternative routes that avoid tolls. The New Jersey Herald reported that many truckers are using small roads, and local residents in areas near free bridges are seeing an increase in traffic.

The end result is that the commission, despite a massive increase in truck toll prices, will not likely reach its revenue goal for the year. The Herald reported the commission had a goal of $76 million, but as of Nov. 30, had collected only $68 million – 11 percent short of its goal.