Traffic passes through the toll booth of the Townsends Inlet Bridge linking Sea Isle City and Avalon.


Motorists using the Cape May County toll bridges should get those extra quarters ready or make sure their E-ZPass accounts are replenished.

The Cape May County Bridge Commission is scheduled to begin the first of what will be a series of toll increases over the next three years on March 13.

Tolls will increase by 50 cents in 2022, 50 cents in 2023 and 50 cents in 2024 under a three-stage plan for the commission’s five bridges. The current toll of $1.50 for cars will double to $3 once the increase is fully implemented by 2024.

The bridge commission’s board members approved the toll hikes on Jan. 20, but at that time the agency did not have a firm date for when the first 50 cent increase would be implemented.

Karen Coughlin, the commission’s executive director, said Friday that the agency now plans to have the toll increase for 2022 go into effect March 13. Tolls are scheduled to increase on Feb. 1 in both 2023 and 2024.

“Our consultants are expected to have work completed and switch to the new rates on March 13,” Coughlin said in an email.

Hoping to avoid any surprises for motorists, the commission plans to post notices at the toll booths on its bridges announcing that a fare hike is coming.

The agency also wants to use a few variable message signs to inform drivers of the toll increase. The signs would go up in early March on the Ocean City-Longport Bridge and Middle Thorofare Bridge, the commission’s busiest toll booths, Coughlin said.

“However, that would be dependent upon the county having some (signs) available during the week of 3/6,” she said in the email.

The commission operates five toll bridges linking the Cape May County shore communities along the scenic Ocean Drive 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 Townsends Inlet Bridge connecting Sea Isle City and Avalon is one of five bridges in line for a toll increase.

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.

The Ocean City-Longport Bridge, built in 2002, is the commission’s only modern span, but it also needs occasional maintenance and upkeep, the commission said.

Higher tolls will generate extra revenue to help pay for smaller maintenance and repair projects, the commission’s board members said when the fare hike was approved in January.

Projects will include mechanical and electrical upgrades, toll facility and ancillary building maintenance and repairs, priority repairs found during bridge inspections and safety and preventative maintenance projects, Coughlin pointed out.

Currently, the commission depends on Cape May County to pay for all maintenance, repairs and upgrades to the bridges.

The toll increase will give the agency its own funding to help pay for those projects now, according to bridge commission documents explaining the reason for the increase.

The commission’s toll revenue for 2021 was about $3.2 million, Coughlin said. Currently, the commission uses its revenue for administrative expenses, payments to its vendors and to maintain a surplus.

With the toll increases, revenue is projected to increase to $4.2 million in 2022, $5.1 million in 2023 and $6.1 million in 2024. Of that revenue, $550,000 would go toward bridge projects in 2022, $1.5 million in 2023 and $2.5 million in 2024, commission documents show.

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, documents show.

About 85 percent of the bridge customers pay their fares using the E-ZPass automated toll system, Coughlin said. Others pay in cash. There will be no discounts for E-ZPass customers once the higher tolls go into effect.

The last toll increase by the Cape May County Bridge Commission occurred in 2009.