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June 18, 2024

Tolls may increase to $6 on Ben Franklin, Walt Whitman and other DRPA bridges

The proposed hike is intended to help fund improvement projects and upgrades, including the addition of automated license plate readers.

Transportation Tolls
Ben Franklin Bridge Tolls Thom Carroll/for PhillyVoice

The Delaware River Port Authority has proposed increasing tolls to $6 on the Ben Franklin, Betsy Ross, Walt Whitman and Commodore Barry bridges. Above, the Ben Franklin Bridge.

Tolls to cross the four bridges run by the Delaware River Port Authority between Philadelphia and New Jersey could soon rise from $5 to $6.

DRPA is expected to vote later this summer on the toll increase for the Benjamin Franklin, Walt Whitman, Betsy Ross and Commodore Barry bridges. It would be the first toll hike for the bridges since 2011.

DRPA board Chair James Schultz said revenue is needed to fund improvement projects that will ensure the safety of the bridges – particularly after the March collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore. Six members of a maintenance crew died when a container ship struck a pier, causing the 47-year-old span to crumble into the Patapsco River.

"We have aging infrastructure. These buildings are not young bridges. We want to make sure that they are structurally sound for years to come," Schultz told KYW Newsradio. "There's a lot of work to be done on the Commodore Barry Bridge in particular."

When DRPA increased tolls to $5 in 2011, the measure included a provision for automatic toll hikes every two years. Increases are supposed to be pegged to the Consumer Price Index, which tracks inflation. Using that measure, the tolls would be set to rise to $6.75, but the DRPA board is considering a $1 increase instead.

The planned repairs and infrastructure upgrades for the bridges include the addition of automated license plate readers used to aid police investigations and counterterrorism efforts. DRPA's $794.2 million budget over the next five years also includes projects to upgrade bridge toll technology and fare collection on PATCO.

The proposed toll hike will not be accompanied by a fare increase on PATCO, which is also managed by DRPA, officials said.

Schultz also said the toll increase will be used to retain and hire new DRPA police officers.

A vote on the proposed toll increase is expected to take place by DRPA's August board meeting.