egg harbor toll
Tuesday May 3 2011 Cars pass the construction area thats adding four high-speed EZ Pass lanes, two in each direction, to the Egg Harbor Tolls on the Atlantic City Expressway. Work is expected to be completed by Memorial Day.(The Press of Atlantic City / Ben Fogletto) Ben Fogletto

Improvements to the Atlantic City Expressway that have tied up traffic in recent weeks are progressing on schedule and should be completed before the tourist season begins, South Jersey Transportation Authority officials said Tuesday. 

The construction is part of a $24 million widening project — from two to three lanes — covering about 11 miles of the roadway between the Garden State Parkway interchange and milepost 18.3. Another $2 million is being spent to add two express E-ZPass lanes in each direction at the Egg Harbor Toll Plaza. 

The design is similar to the Pleasantville Toll Plaza located farther east on the expressway.

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“Our target date for those lanes to open is Memorial Day,” authority spokeswoman Sharon Gordon said. “We could have the ability to open prior to Memorial Day, but we will be testing equipment before we make that decision to make sure everything is working properly.”

Samuel Donelson, the Authority’s Deputy Executive Director and Chief Engineer, said the project has not been significantly impacted by the inclement weather that pummeled the region this winter and spring.

“We will have the plaza converted from what it’s been since the 1960’s into an express plaza inside of three months” he said, adding the authority allotted extra days for the project in anticipation of possible bad weather. “I’d say that we’re right on schedule.”

Donelson said a majority of the remaining construction would take place behind the road barriers and that there would be some lane reductions leading up to the toll plaza, but those would be “minimal.” Officials hope that this construction will increase tourism to the shore points, especially during the summer tourist season.

Roughly 65 percent of the cars that travel through the Egg Harbor Toll are E-ZPass users, Donelson said. Right now, those drivers have to slow to 15 miles per hour when they pass through the designated E-ZPass lanes.

“The best manual toll collectors collect around 400 cars per hour, whereas the express E-ZPass lanes collect an average of 1,800 vehicles per hour,” he said. “So the result will be a much greater level of service for the shore destinations.”

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