The Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission (DRJTBC) Wednesday is celebrating two years of modernization of its busy I-80 toll bridge at the Delaware River Water Gap. The work completed includes an open road toll lane at the westbound-only toll plaza, removal of gates from cash lanes, and an extensive rehab of the steel i-beam girder bridges including new main bearings and deck joints - items that accommodate thermal expansion and contraction.
A single open road toll (ORT) lane on I-80 at the Delaware Water Gap bridge toll point is consistently carrying more traffic than five conventional toll lanes alongside, Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission reports. Traffic has been steaming through the leftside ORT lane at about 2,000 vehicles per hour (1.8 seconds per vehicle) during weekday peak periods, whereas the conventional toll lanes tend to back up when traffic goes above about 400
They call it the Express E-ZPass lane - what we call generically open road tolling (ORT). It's a single highway speed electronic toll lane on I-80 at the toll point for the Delaware Water Gap Bridge over the upper Delaware River between New Jersey and Pennsylvania near Stroudsburg PA. They opened it in a provisional configuration November 22 alongside five stop-to-pay cash lanes that also accept an E-ZPass transponder. (Tolling here is westbound only.)
The Federal Highway Administration officially announced this afternoon in a short five paragraph statement that it declined to approve tolling on I-80 in Pennsylvania "because the application did not meet the federal requirement that toll revenues be used exclusively for the facility being tolled."
USDOT officials have told state Governor Ed Rendell that Pennsylvania cannot toll I-80 because state plans for use of the proceeds are not permitted under existing federal law. Governor Rendell said this at a press conference in Harisburg this afternoon. He was confirming the news which was broken this morning by the Patriot-News of Harrisburg.
Tom Barnes in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette quotes Governor Ed Rendell as saying he expects the Feds to say something on I-80 tolls in the next two weeks. Rendell and Pennsylvania officials had a meeting on the subject with US Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood in Washington last week.
Whether the Feds will go along with the state plan to toll PA/I-80 is one of the hottest political issues in the state right now with dire predictions being made about the retrenchments that will be needed at state agencies if the US Secretary Transportation says no. At stake is an annual half a billion dollars the Pennsylvania Turnpike is due to pay the state with I-80 tolled that will be lost from another No.
Conversion of I-80 at the Delaware River to open road tolling (ORT) is being delayed a bit. Announced last year for the end of May (Memorial Day) the schedule has slipped to the end of November (Thanksgiving).
Lunchtime today was the deadline for engineering firms wanting work at the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission on the I-80 Toll Conversion Project. The RFP (Reference # 6-006)is for four open end contracts for engineering design services to enable the tolling of I-80. A 4-page document it is signed by Allen Biehler, chairman.
"Pennsylvania Independent" reports that the Obama administration will say "No" to the Pennsylvania Turnpike application to toll I-80.