HAMILTON TOWNSHIP — Motorists can now travel to and from Atlantic City using Exit 17 of the Atlantic City Expressway, but it will cost them $3 for the privilege.

The interchange officially opened to traffic after a brief ceremony in which New Jersey Department of Transportation Commissioner Jim Simpson talked of how infrastructure investments are critically important to the regional economy.

Work started on the $8.2 million project in November 2008 and was completed on time and on budget, South Jersey Transportation Authority Executive Director Bart Mueller said.

The toll plaza accepts only E-ZPass, and those drivers without the electronic toll tag who use the interchange will receive a bill in the mail, SJTA spokeswoman Sharon Gordon said.

Prior to Friday’s opening, only motorists traveling eastbound on the expressway could exit onto Route 50, and drivers on Route 50 could only enter the westbound lanes going toward Philadelphia.

During the ceremony, Egg Harbor City councilman Edward Dennis said he hopes traffic from the interchange will help the city economically, and cited it as a reason a developer recently announced a 225-lot residential subdivision. Dennis said when the expressway opened 50 years ago, motorists stopped using the White Horse Pike and stopped contributing to the city’s economy.

“With this interchange, it’s going to offer people an opportunity to see Egg Harbor City,” he said.

The developer, Brad Haber, said he was asked to speak as proof the interchange would increase economic development in Egg Harbor City and Hamilton Township. He said the interchange was critical to his bringing the project to the city and that “access is the lifeblood necessary” for growth and development.

In recent months, some Hamilton Township officials, including Administrator Ed Sasdelli, had expressed frustration regarding the $3 toll, saying it would not reduce congestion at Exit 12, which leads to the Hamilton Mall.

Gordon said the authority was bound by its bond agreements to not create ways for motorists to circumvent higher toll plazas, and the Rt. 50 interchange is less than one mile from the $3 Egg Harbor toll plaza. The tolls are positioned so drivers immediately coming from or going toward the Egg Harbor plaza can’t be charged the $3 toll twice.

Mueller said a similar interchange was completed recently in Gloucester County and said it generated $100 million in housing and retail development in Winslow Township and nearby communities.

“Hopefully this will be repeated here. It’s too early to tell,” he said.

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