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50-cent Toll Hike Coming to 5 County Bridges March 15

Middle Thorofare Bridge
File Photo

Middle Thorofare Bridge

By Christopher South

CREST HAVEN – The second of three rounds of bridge toll increases is coming March 15, when tolls for five county bridges will rise from $2 to $2.50 for most vehicles. 

The increase is part of a plan that will raise the one-direction toll to $3 by 2024.  

The forecast is for the Cape May County Bridge Commission to grow revenues to $5.15 million this year, while spending about $1.5 million on bridge and facility maintenance. The commission anticipates a $589,000 surplus by year’s end.  

Next year, toll revenue should rise to $6.1 million, with $2.5 million in maintenance costs and a $518,000 estimated surplus. 

The plan to increase bridge toll revenue comes after three years of losses, 2013 to 2015, when the commission recorded an over $800,000 deficit.  

In 2016, the Bridge Commission saw a $200,000 surplus. Over a 10-year period, from 2010 to 2020, bridge toll receipts declined about $180,000, while administrative costs were reduced by over $285,000 through a wage freeze and replacing full-time employees, as they retired, with part-timers.  

Payments to vendors and suppliers went down by $150,000. 

Cape May County Engineer Robert Church said the Bridge Commission maintains five bridges: Middle Thorofare Bridge, between Wildwood Crest and Cape May; Grassy Sound Bridge, between North Wildwood and Stone Harbor; Townsend’s Inlet Bridge, between Avalon and Sea Isle City; Corson’s Inlet Bridge, between Strathmere and Ocean City; and Ocean City-Longport Bridge, between Ocean City and Longport.   

Church said that if repairs are needed to any of those bridges, the commission tries to use toll receipts to support those repairs. Generally, however, help is needed from the county, which owns 23 bridges.  

Church said the county does a lot of its bridge maintenance using state grants. Approximately $3 million per year in state funding goes to bridges deemed critical, functionally obsolete, or structurally deficient. 

“We have some bridges fall into those categories, and it allows us to get some more money from the state,” Church said. 

Church said the Upper Thorofare Bridge, on Ocean Drive, in Lower Township, is considered “scour critical,” which he said could mean a couple of things. Generally, however, it means material around the bridge’s abutments or piers is being washed away, undermining the stability of the bridge. 

“From the county side, we have that going on,” Church said. 

There are two bridges in Avalon – 21st and 25th street bridges – where there are similar undermining issues. 

The Great Channel Bridge, which connects Middle Township and Stone Harbor, is getting about $5 million in repair work. 

“The county has about $10.5 million in construction projects on six bridges,” Church said. 

The Middle Thorofare Bridge is about 83 years old. The replacement of the moveable bridge with a fixed span bridge has been talked about for a long time.  

Church said the concept development stage has been completed, and the county hopes that, in the spring, it can advertise for bids for engineering design services for preliminary and final designs of a new bridge.  

The project, he said, including road elevation and reconstruction, would extend from the base of the Garden State Parkway to about Madison Avenue in Wildwood Crest.  

Preliminary cost estimates were $212 million, including the replacement of two small, flat bridges, the moveable bridge, a 5-foot culvert and the roadwork.  

Thoughts? Questions? Contact the author at csouth@cmcherald.com or call 609-886-8600 ex. 128. 

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