Tolls start Sunday on the new Scudder Falls Toll Bridge that connects I-295 in Pennsylvania to New Jersey over the Delaware River.
Shortly after midnight on Sunday, the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission’s electronic tolling gantry heading from Mercer County, New Jersey, into Lower Makefield on I-295 will begin charging a $1.25 toll on E-ZPass devices and others will have their vehicle’s license plate scanned and later receive a bill for $2.60 by mail. No toll booths are present on the bridge.
The Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission does offer a commuter discount for those who make at least 16 tolled trips, but it only works with New Jersey E-ZPass responders and not Pennsylvania E-ZPass users. To receive the discount, Pennsylvanians would have to by a New Jersey E-ZPass transponder.
The Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission made the decision to start charging tolls on the span that replaces an older one over the river to help fund the more than $500 million project.
The bridge opened earlier this week with traffic coming into Pennsylvania, while New Jersey-bound traffic will use the old bridge until all vehicles are shifted onto the new bridge by July 24.
While the full bridge will be entirely in use within the next two weeks, construction related to the project will continue until 2021.
Due to the new bridge opening and in advance of the tolls starting, area officials reported the toll-free Calhoun Street Bridge in Morrisville Borough and Washington Crossing Bridge in Upper Makefield have been more crowded with high congestion at rush hour. They added heavy traffic is expected as continue on those single-lane iron truss bridges as the toll goes into place.
Over the past few years, the addition of tolls on the previously free crossing has not been well received by the public, many of whom commute between Lower Bucks County and jobs in New Jersey state government or the number of companies in the pharmaceutical industry across the river.
At the Scudder Falls Toll Bridge park and ride on Friday, State Sen. Steve Santarsiero and State Rep. Perry Warren, both Democrats, held a press conference in advance of the toll going into effect.
The two lawmakers made their case for bills that would provide a tax credit for commuters who are tolled in the state. Along with the Scudder Falls Toll Bridge, the bills would provide a tax credit to cover 50 percent of a commuter’s toll-related expenses for the taxable year up to $500 on nearly all the toll costs in Pennsylvania, including on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
Santarsiero, who represents a large portion of the lower and central portion of the county, introduced Senate Bill 451 in March and Newtown-area representative Warren introduced House Bill 329. Both bills mirror one another.
Levittown-area Democratic State Rep. Tina Davis supports the bill but was unable to attend the press conference.
Santarsiero told reporters the bill would reduce the burden on Bucks Countians and residents across the state who pay tolls for their commute.
“This legislation will reduce the cost of commuting, reduce business costs, and will spur economic development,” Warren said. “Through a commuter tax credit, we are looking to benefit our community and build our economy.”
During the press conference, Santarsiero said he has been involved with the bridge project and the opposition to the toll proposal since his time as a Lower Makefield Board of Supervisor member and state representative.
Lawmakers did not know exactly how many Bucks County residents cross the bridge each day, but they know it carries 60,000 commuters every day.
Republican State Rep. Wendi Thomas has set up a petition to urge the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission to reduce the toll price for Pennsylvania E-ZPass users.
“The toll on the new bridge will have a major impact on local commuters. It’s patently unfair not to offer the commuter discount to Pennsylvania commuters using the PA E-ZPass system,” she wrote in a Facebook post.