The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) has ushered in a new era with the 85-year-old Bayonne Bridge becoming its first all-cashless tolling facility.
The introduction of all-electronic tolling (AET) on the bridge’s new elevated roadway went ‘live’ yesterday (February 20), and is part of the Port Authority’s ‘Raise the Roadway’ initiative to provide navigational clearance for the larger container vessels now using the expanded Panama Canal, which are expected to arrive at all agency port facilities later this year.
The Bayonne Bridge is the fifth-longest steel arch bridge in the world, and was the longest in the world at the time of its completion in 1931. The bridge spans the ‘Kill Van Kull’, a tidal strait between Staten Island, New York, and Bayonne, New Jersey, which is one of the most heavily travelled waterways in the Port of New York and New Jersey.
As the original roadway only had a clearance of 151ft (46m) above the straight, the Port Authority’s project literally ‘raised the roadway’ to 215ft (65.5m) above the Kill van Kull, providing an extra 64ft (19.5m) to allow modern container vessels to safely pass underneath. The project represents a unique engineering achievement, during which the new roadway was built while the existing roadway remained in service, with limited disruption to traffic. With the new roadway open, the existing toll plaza will be taken out of service, as it has been replaced with an overhead gantry, mounted with electronic toll collection equipment. Drivers will no longer slow down or stop at a toll booth, and will benefit from being able to continue driving through the crossing at the posted speed limit.
More than 90% of Bayonne Bridge drivers already use the E-ZPass RFID (radio frequency identification) transponder system, and they will experience no other changes. However, E-ZPass users must make sure their tag is properly mounted in the vehicle’s windshield, to ensure it will be detected by the new electronic toll collecting equipment. For the less than 10% of Bayonne Bridge drivers that do not use E-ZPass, an overhead ANPR (automatic number plate recognition) camera will photograph the vehicle’s license plate and a toll bill will be mailed to the vehicle’s registered owner.
At first, the new Bayonne Bridge roadway will continue to accommodate one lane of traffic in each direction. The new roadway will reach its full width of four 12ft (3.6m) lanes plus inner and outer shoulders, a median barrier and a 10ft (3m) shared-use path for cyclists and pedestrians, by 2019.
The new bridge design will also allow for a future mass transit service. The PANYNJ’s Raise the Roadway project will enable current larger, more efficient and more environmentally beneficial container ships to pass beneath the Bayonne Bridge when traveling to Port Newark/Elizabeth and Howland Hook. The project is under construction by the joint venture Skanska/Koch/Kiewit Infrastructure Co.