Delaware River I-78 ORT to open soon
By Peter Samuel
Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission (DRJTBC) will open their first open road toll (ORT) point next week, perhaps as early as Tuesday May 11. This is at the I-78 bridge over the Delaware River, the busiest of seven toll bridges operated by DRJTBC between New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Tolling is westbound only and the new facility provides two open road or Express E-ZPass toll lanes and four cash lanes. This replaces a seven toll lane stop-to-pay or roll-through toll plaza.
Motorists will welcome the opening because the past several months have seen just four toll lanes in use compared to the normal seven. Three were taken away to allow construction of a pair of open road toll lanes (including shoulders). MORE BELOW THE SECTIONAL DRAWING
Construction has been quite fast.
Notice to proceed was given Oct 30 last year and the deadline for opening was May 26.
Work involved rehab of the four righthand toll lanes, including removal of gates and their replacement with enforcement cameras. The plaza structure on the left was completely removed and replaced by an ORT trussed canopy for mounting of equipment.
There were new concrete barriers and extensive new pavement work done for the highway speed ORT lanes.
This week large sign gantries are being erected that will indicate the split of traffic between the open road and the stop-to-pay lanes.
Big capacity hike
The new toll plaza should be able to handle up to 4,000 vehicles/hr in the two ORT lanes and 1,600 vehicles (4x400) in the cash lanes for a total of 5,600/hr. This compares with a maximum throughput previously of less than 3,000 (7x400).
The productivity leap with open road tolling is seen in the two ORT lanes having more capacity than the seven old stop-to-pay toll lanes (4,000 v 2,800).
Total project cost will be around $11m.
Work was split up as follows:
HNTB did the conceptual plan and preliminary design.
STV is DRJTBC's engineering manager.
Major civil work is being done under a $4.3m design-build contract with AP Construction with KS Engineers and H&J International.
ACS is the toll system designer and integrator at the front end.
At the back office ETC Corp is setting up and will operate the customer service center and violation processing.
This is ORT+cash, with no video tolling, just video enforcement.
Motorists who go through the open road lanes without a transponder will be hit with a $25 penalty plus the toll. The second penalty will be $35.
I-80 also to get ORT
DRJTBC also has ORT in the works for the I-80 Bridge, also known as the Water Gap Bridge to the north. There a single ORT lane is being installed as an interim improvement. The schedule is to open the I-80 ORT before the end of November this year.
BACKGROUND: The I-78 bridge which is 3+3 travel lanes carried an average 56,700 vehicles/day (both directions) in 2009. Traffic was slightly up on the low of 2008 (56,100) but it has yet to regain the high of 2006 57,900/day.
Toll revenues are about $38m of DRJTBC's total revenues of $86m. This is DRJTBC's big moneymaker out its total 20 bridges. The second is the I-80 bridge at $25m.
I-78 is a major trucking route to and from the port of Newark. In Harrisburg PA it connects to I-81 the major north-south route inland of I-95, and the Pennsylvania Turnpike (I-76, later I-70).
24% of traffic on I-78 is trucks at 11,000/day or over 4 million/year both directions.
4m trucks a year on the I-78 Delaware River bridge is a greater volume of trucks than at the two top US-Canadian toll bridges combined (Ambassador Bridge 2.31m, Blue Water Bridge 1.35m in 2009).
Some transport analysts see a major shift in Asian container shipping from Asia the port of Los Angeles to Newark NJ with the opening of the Panama Canal to much larger container ships.
Containers for the east coast of the US instead of hauled by rail from LA, they say will dock in Newark, and be trucked out of there. If this transpires the New Jersey Turnpike, PANYNJ and DRJTBC (at I-78 and I-80 toll bridges) could see increases in trucking volumes.