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Society

George Washington Bridge: Goodbye to Cash Tolls, and Some Notorious History

FORT LEE, N.J. — Attention drivers at the George Washington Bridge: Your cash is no good here.

Starting Sunday, drivers looking to cross the Hudson River from New Jersey into New York will go through an electronic tolling system.

Drivers without E-ZPass who would otherwise be paying cash will instead have their license plates photographed by overhead cameras and bills sent to them by mail.

The move from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey comes as way to help ease congestion at the bridge, the busiest of the three Hudson River crossings that the agency oversees.

“Many advocates have been calling for this for a long time and it’s a welcome move,” said Tom Wright, president of the Regional Plan Association.

Cars pass through toll booths to use the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee, N.J., Friday, July 8, 2022. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

With the instituting of the new system, the toll booths currently in place will be taken out, removing a link to a memorable chapter in New Jersey’s political history known as “Bridgegate.”

In 2013, traffic in Fort Lee, New Jersey, was snarled for several days when a group of Republican political operatives had some of the access lanes leading into the toll booths blocked in retaliation for a Democratic mayor not endorsing then-Gov. Chris Christie for reelection.

Christie was not charged with anything, but two people were convicted on federal charges. Those convictions were later overturned by the Supreme Court. Another who had pleaded guilty had that plea vacated.

Cars pass through toll booths to use the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee, N.J., Friday, July 8, 2022. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

The George Washington Bridge is a crossing point not only to get into New York City, but also for drivers using Interstate 95. The Port Authority said more than 49 million vehicles crossed eastbound over it last year, and it is the most used Hudson River crossing by trucks.

Cashless tolling has been in use at the Holland Tunnel since December 2020, and is expected to start at the Lincoln Tunnel later this year, the Port Authority said.

Wright said using an electronic system for tolls “serves more motorists faster and more efficiently.” But, he cautioned, that did not mean there would be no more congestion as vehicles converge to get across the span.

“It’s not like a magic wand,” he said.

 

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