The Bayonne Bridge’s new elevated roadway will open to drivers on Monday at 5 a.m., ushering in a new era for the 85-year-old arch bridge that will now become the Port Authority’s first all-cashless tolling facility.
The new roadway is 215 feet above the Kill van Kull and 64 feet above the original bridge deck. It is part of the Port Authority’s “Raise the Roadway” initiative to provide navigational clearance for the larger container vessels now using the expanded Panama Canal that are expected to arrive at all agency port facilities later this year.
The project represents a unique engineering achievement, during which the new roadway was built while the existing roadway remained in service with limited disruption to traffic.
When the new roadway opens, the existing toll plaza will be taken out of service and replaced with an overhead gantry, mounted with electronic toll collection equipment. Drivers will no longer slow down or stop at a toll booth, and will benefit from being able to continue driving through the crossing at the posted speed limit.
More than 90 percent of Bayonne Bridge drivers already use E-ZPass and they will experience no other changes. However, E-ZPass users must make sure their tag is properly mounted in the vehicle’s windshield, to ensure it will be detected by the electronic toll collecting equipment.
For the less than 10 percent of Bayonne Bridge drivers who do not use E-ZPass, an overhead camera will photograph the vehicle’s license plate and a toll bill will be mailed to the vehicle’s registered owner. These bills must be paid by the due date noted on the bill. Unpaid toll bills will be assessed additional fees and ultimately escalate to violations, with a $50 fee assessed for each violation.
The Port Authority aggressively enforces toll payment through a multi-pronged approach that focuses primarily on persistent toll violators. Unpaid toll violations are sent to a collection agency and may be pursued through litigation. Toll evaders also may face criminal charges and arrest by Port Authority Police. The agency also partners with the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles to seek the suspension of vehicle registrations for persistent violators with New York-registered vehicles.
When the new roadway opens, all traffic crossing Route 440 between Bayonne, N.J. and Staten Island, N.Y. will be directed by signs to the bridge’s new approach roadways and over the elevated span.
“On February 20, we will make history,’’ said Steven Plate, the Port Authority’s chief of major capital projects. “The Bayonne Bridge, a marvel of 20th century engineering, will become a groundbreaking innovation of the 21st century.’’
At first, the new Bayonne Bridge roadway will continue to accommodate one lane of traffic in each direction. The new roadway will reach its full width – four 12-foot lanes plus inner and outer shoulders, a median barrier and a 10-foot shared-use path for cyclists and pedestrians – by 2019.
The Bayonne Bridge “Raise the Roadway” project will enable today’s larger, more efficient and more environmentally beneficial container ships to pass beneath the Bayonne Bridge when traveling to Port Newark/Elizabeth and Howland Hook. The project is under construction by the joint venture of Skanska/Koch/Kiewit Infrastructure Co. (JV).