Say goodbye to cash and tollbooths at the George Washington Bridge.
Starting July 10, cars will pay tolls by driving under overhead gantries equipped with devices to scan an E-ZPass transponder or capture a picture of the license plate and send a bill in the mail to the address associated with the car.
This is the latest Port Authority crossing to make the transition to cashless. The three Staten Island bridges and the Holland Tunnel made the switch in 2019 and 2020. The Lincoln Tunnel will follow later this year.
The Port Authority anticipates that eliminating the toll plazas could help reduce crashes by at least 75% at the three Hudson River crossings, according to estimates made using pre-pandemic data. At the Goethals Bridge, crashes were reduced by 57% after cashless tolling construction widened lanes and created shoulders.
"We do expect traffic to improve, since vehicles are now able to move at open road speeds, and you won’t have to merge into toll lanes," said Port Authority spokeswoman Amanda Kwan. "The removal of the booths will not be immediate, since the demolition process will be very disruptive — it will need to be worked into scheduled construction at the GWB."
Asked if cashless tolling could improve traffic and speed at the bridge, Sam Schwartz, a former New York City traffic commissioner and transportation engineer, said, "When traffic is moderate or better it will save time, especially for those who were not using E-ZPass. When traffic is jammed, not much difference."
While tolls won't change, the carpool discount will be eliminated because toll collectors will no longer be able to count how many people are in cars to apply the discount.
Commuters, who depended on the program for the reduced tolls and dedicated traffic lane, fought back against the decision when it was announced in 2019, leading to a delay of that program's elimination.
U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer is also pushing back against the Port Authority's decision.
"Cashless is good, but carpool-less is bad. It doesn’t make any sense to me, and it’s ridiculous that the Port Authority is trying to saddle hard-working commuters with new tolls right now, especially at a time when we’re trying to make life more affordable,” Gottheimer said in a press release.
Port Authority board Chairman Kevin O'Toole said in the past that "if there's technology that allows us to continue this discount that does not cause a bottleneck and backup, then we will be open to it."
California, Georgia, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Virginia, Texas and Utah are using technology to enforce carpools, according to Gottheimer's office.
"Xerox has deployed vehicle passenger detection technology with a 95% accuracy rate, compared to 36% for humans," Gottheimer said. Xerox is the company that created Conduent, the company behind E-ZPass, but now Xerox and Conduent are two separate companies.
Gottheimer said the bi-state agency "must find solutions to preserve the lower carpool tolls, keep congestion down, and reduce emissions."
Colleen Wilson covers the Port Authority and NJ Transit for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to her work covering the region’s transportation systems and how they affect your commute, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.