A proposal to charge a $3 toll at the revamped Atlantic City Expressway interchange at Route 50 in Hamilton Township is up for review at today’s meeting of the South Jersey Transportation Authority.
The fee has been criticized by some drivers and public officials, who worry that the price is too high and would only hurt local residents who are trying to get to and from work.
Assemblymen John Amodeo and Vince Polistina, both R-Atlantic, have asked the SJTA to consider a smaller fee of 75 cents, which is the cost at most other toll ramps along the expressway.
But SJTA spokeswoman Sharon Gordon said a $3 fee at the new Interchange 17 would serve to capture revenue that would otherwise go uncollected: If there was no toll, drivers might choose to use the interchange to avoid the nearby Egg Harbor Toll Plaza, which currently charges cars $3, and instead hop onto Route 30, which is free and runs parallel to the expressway.
The toll would only affect drivers entering the expressway from Route 50 to go eastbound toward Atlantic City or exiting the expressway westbound to get onto Route 50, which runs through Hamilton Township and north into Egg Harbor City.
Based on the placement of the tolls, Gordon said, no one immediately coming from or going toward the Egg Harbor Toll Plaza would wind up paying a $3 fee twice.
Gordon said the SJTA is suggesting that drivers use EZ-Pass, which offers discounts for frequent toll users. For instance, $3 tolls automatically drop down to $1.92 for drivers who use the toll at least 30 times in a 35-day period.
The $8.6 million interchange project is expected to open in early June.
Three hearings have been held to get public feedback. Only a handful of people spoke at a hearing last month at the SJTA’s administrative offices at the Frank S. Farley Service Plaza on the expressway.
Egg Harbor City officials crafted a resolution to send to the SJTA against the toll rate. Mayor Joseph Kuehner said Monday that while the upgrade of the interchange is welcome because it will give drivers a better connection with Route 50, it won’t necessarily mean that businesses will move in and help grow the local economies.
“I think it’s great that they’re putting the interchange there,” Kuehner said. “But if the toll was set at what the normal tolls are along the expressway at a reasonable rate, we think it would be used a lot more and could have that impact we want.”
The SJTA will meet at 10 a.m. at its offices at the Farley Service Plaza.
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