By MADDY VITALE
When motorists crossed over the toll bridges in Cape May County on Tuesday, they began paying a little bit more money.
A toll increase went into effect Tuesday for the five toll bridges linking Cape May County shore communities from Ocean City to Cape May. They include the Ocean City-Longport Bridge, Townsends Inlet Bridge, Corsons Inlet Bridge, Middle Thorofare Bridge and Grassy Sound Bridge.
The only modern span operated by the commission is the Ocean City-Longport Bridge built in 2002.
In January, the Cape May County Bridge Commission, the agency that oversees the bridges, voted in favor of a three-stage toll increase for much-needed revenue to maintain and repair the aging bridges, some of which date back to the 1930s.
Tolls will increase by 50 cents per year from 2022 to 2024. When the toll hike is fully done, the cost will be $3.
So, for travelers crossing the Townsends Inlet Bridge, the toll went from $1.50 for cars to $2 Tuesday.
Karen Coughlin, the bridge commission’s executive director, said there were no problems on day-one of the toll increase.
“Everything went well today,” she said, adding that there were no major issues.
The Townsends Inlet, Corsons Inlet, Middle Thorofare and Grassy Sound bridges date to the 1930s or 1940s and are often in need of maintenance or repair projects to keep them in operation.
Higher tolls will generate extra revenue to help the commission pay for maintenance and smaller repair projects, the agency said.
Signs at the toll plazas Tuesday noting the increase may have caused some alarm for motorists, but Coughlin said her office received just one complaint Tuesday.
There had not been a toll increase on the Cape May County bridges since 2009 and before that, not since 1988.
In addition to the higher tolls for cars, the bridge fare for trucks will also go up by 50 cents per year from 2022 to 2024. Depending on the number of axles they have and whether they are pulling a trailer, trucks currently pay tolls ranging from $2.75 to $12.75.
Under the toll hike, the truck rates would range from $4.25 to $14.25 when the full increase is implemented by 2024.
Originally the toll hike was supposed to go into effect on March 13.
However, Coughlin said, “The system update was better to do during the week when various back office personnel were working and able to review the data.”
Motorists have the option of paying their tolls with the E-ZPass system, with cash or with discount tickets. The commission stopped selling discount tickets in 2018, but motorists are still allowed to use them if they have any left over from previous years because they have no expiration date.