No love for $5 bridge tolls

The vew going westbound through the Ben Franklin Bridge toll plaza in Camden. The cost of crossing the bridge went to $5, from $4 today, and many motorists are not happy. (Peter Mucha / Staff)
The vew going westbound through the Ben Franklin Bridge toll plaza in Camden. The cost of crossing the bridge went to $5, from $4 today, and many motorists are not happy. (Peter Mucha / Staff)
Posted: July 01, 2011

Today's hike in bridge tolls could cost Jeff Duria and his wife more than $400 a year for their commutes from Cherry Hill into Philadelphia.

So she hopes to take the Tacony Palmyra instead to get to her job in the Northeast, the 42-year-old said outside a Pennsauken Wawa this morning.

She could take any of the expensive bridges back, since the tolls are only levied westbound.

Today, the cost rose from $4 to $5 to cross into Pennsylvania over the Ben Franklin, Walt Whitman, Betsy Ross and Commodore Barry Bridges, all operated by the Delaware River Port Authority.

Also, discounts have been eliminated for frequent users, but seniors 65 and over can still get across half-price. (See www.drpa.org for sign-up details.)

Tolls are still just $2 on the Tacony and the Burlington Bristol, which are run by the Burlington County Bridge Commission.

The DRPA says the hike was needed to cover $1 billion in projects over the next half-dozen years, including a $216 million redecking/refurbishing of the Walt Whitman Bridge, and a $202 million upgrade of the PATCO High Speed Line fleet.

PATCO fares also rose 10 percent today.

The Delaware Memorial Bridge joined in as well, now charging $4 instead of $3 to get across. It's managed by another agency, the Delaware River Bay Authority.

At the Wawa, the DRPA was getting no love this morning.

"I'm not sure it's justified," ssaid Alan Chapman, 59, a Cherry Hill financial adviser. "They've spent a lot of money on things that weren't necessary for bridges."

Over the years, the agency has provided major funding for such projects as sports stadiums, museums and concert halls, saying part of its mission is to foster economic development on both sides of the river.

A 25 percent hike is "outrageous, said Hector Castro, 56, a high school custodian from Camden. "The government keeps taking more money, more money."

"I think it's robbery. They shouldn't be doing that," said Dan Bloom, 55, a maintenance worker from Gloucester City.

"Politicians have ruined everything," said a middle-aged man wearing a patriotic red, white and blue tie. The agency has "a track record of foolish spending and unwise decisions," he added, before declining to be named, because he works for the State of New Jersey.

"It's insane. It's not fair to single parents," said a woman stopping before taking her daughter to daycare. The woman also declined being named because she works for the state.

Higher tolls also take a toll on truckers, especially with high gas prices, said Dave Smith, 47, standing next to his rig for Pennsauken Inserts, a printing company. The government should be trying to keep the cost of shipping down to boost the economy, not add more hardship, he said.

The toll went up from $6 an axle to $7.50, so a 6-axle rig now costs $45 for passage.


Contact staff writer Peter Mucha at 215-854-4342 or pmucha@phillynews.com.

 

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