Mike Alessia chuckled when he thought about the days before E-Z Pass and paying your way down the Garden State Parkway doubled as a skill sport.
“I remember having to throw the coins — even as kids, you would throw it from the back seat and see if you could get the coins in.” said the 55-year-old Bergen County resident, as he traveled with his wife, Linda, from Old Tappan to Wildwood on Thursday afternoon.
Soon the machines will just be a memory. All automatic coin machines will be removed from mainline barrier toll plazas on the Garden State Parkway this month, the New Jersey Turnpike Authority said.
The work is scheduled to begin on Sept. 24. The plazas that will be affected in Ocean, Atlantic and Cape May counties include: Barnegat at milepost 68.9 southbound; New Gretna at milepost 53.5 northbound; Great Egg at milepost 28.8 southbound; and Cape May at milepost 19.4 northbound.
The coin machines that are being removed will be converted to full-service toll lanes or those for “E-ZPass Only,” the NJTA said.
“We had to beep the horn on the last toll because it didn’t register,” said Rocco Incorvaia, 62, of Midland Park, Bergen County, “they don’t always work, but they had plenty of time to get the flaws out of it.”
The 37 coin machines at the 11 mainline barrier toll plazas will be removed, but the entrance and exit ramp coin machines will remain, according to the authority.
Chris Taylor, 61, of Clifton Heights, Pennsylvania, was driving with family members on the Parkway on Thursday afternoon.
“I have E-Z Pass in all my cars,” he said. “I only use the coins when I am driving someone else’s car.”
While he, too, made the switch to E-Z Pass a while ago, Taylor thinks changing the toll system will hurt out-of-town drivers and slow traffic approaching the plazas.
“If they don’t have E-Z Pass ... there are fewer operators, no coin drop, what are they going to do?” Taylor said.
The coin machines have been in place for more than 25 years, according to a NJTA spokesman.
However, in 2017, the coin machines at these plazas accounted for fewer than 5 percent of toll transactions.
The coin machines are “nearing the end of their useful lives,” and are becoming expensive and difficult to keep up, according the the NJTA. The NJTA said original manufacturer’s parts are becoming no longer available, and parts from third-party vendors are scarce.
The work will start with Pascack Valley and Cape May. Crews will then work on two plazas per week in the following order: Bergen and Great Egg in the second week; Essex and New Gretna; Union and Barnegat; Raritan and Toms River; and the Asbury Park toll plaza during the final week.
The parts from the coin machines that are being removed will be used for coins machines on the entrance and exit ramps, the NJTA said.