Govs reach compromise: Delaware Memorial Bridge toll to increase to $5

The Delaware Memorial Bridge (Andrea Gibbs/WHYY)

The Delaware Memorial Bridge (Andrea Gibbs/WHYY)

Following a disagreement over a toll hike at the Delaware Memorial Bridge, local governors have reached a compromise.

The new agreement between Delaware Gov. John Carney and New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy advances a $1 toll increase, while offering discounts to certain drivers. The toll hike will take effect in May.

“Discussions on a path forward were positive and constructive and I’m pleased we were able to find common ground,” Carney said. “With additional revenue, the DRBA can now proceed with many vital infrastructure investments at Delaware Memorial Bridge and Cape May-Lewes Ferry that otherwise would have been delayed or postponed indefinitely.”

In December, the Delaware River and Bay Authority approved a new price of $5 for passenger cars and trucks and $7 per axle for commercial vehicles. Currently, drivers pay $4 for passenger vehicles and $5 per axle for commercial ones.

The toll increase — the first in eight years — was proposed to fund $440 million for maintenance and upgrades.

The ship-collision protection system, original to the bridge, requires an update to meet the needs of today’s faster and larger tankers. The original bridge is 67 years old and the second span recently celebrated its fiftieth anniversary.

The large suspension lines hanging from the main bridge cable and supporting the main deck also must be replaced. Also planned are steelwork repairs and a painting, removal, and re-coating project.

Projects at the Cape May-Lewes Ferry also were proposed.

However, Gov. Murphy vetoed the toll increases in January, saying he would only support an increase to pay for critical bridge safety work. Carney and the DRBA said they were concerned about the veto.

The two governors say they’ve reached a compromise that works for everyone.

The passenger vehicle toll will increase from $4 to $5. However, drivers with a New Jersey EZ-Pass or DelDOT account will get 25 cents off the new toll rate.

The Frequent Travel discount rate — for those who complete 20 trips in 90 days — will increase from $1.25 to $1.75 later this year and to $2.25 in 2021.

The new proposal will generate $32 million to fund safety and infrastructure projects at the bridge — $2 million short of the previous toll increase pitch. The Delaware River and Bay Authority’s five-year Capital Improvement Plan also has been amended from $435 million to $399 million.

The DRBA agreed to cancel or defer infrastructure projects that would be value-added to their operation, but not vital or essential for the particular facility. Most of these are at the Cape May-Lewes Ferry.

Jim Salmon, a spokesperson for the DRBA, said the agency is pleased with the new proposal.

“I’m thrilled to have worked with Governor Carney to generate this modified proposal that is more fair to commuters, and allows us to invest in the Delaware Memorial Bridge to keep it in good repair,” Murphy said. “This modified proposal allows us to ensure the safe passage of travelers from New Jersey and Delaware, while addressing the commuting costs of our residents, critical goals shared by both states.”

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