Almost all gone: A brief history of the Port Authority toll booth
Earlier this month, The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey announced that the agency would deactivate the last of its toll booths and implement a new state-of-the-art all cashless tolling system at the Lincoln Tunnel.
This is set to happen on Sunday, Dec. 11 and once activation of the new toll system is in effect, it will be the completion of a multi-year $500 million capital project to upgrade the toll collection system at all six agency crossings to a fully cashless system.
This “out with the old, in with the new” concept brings back a lot of memories of what the Port Authority toll booths used to look like.
Let’s take a ride through history, shall we?
In 1928, there were no toll lanes, no toll booth attendants, and just a few toll booths, according to an article written by Amanda Kwan at the Port Authority.
A Port Authority Police Department officer, also known as a “bridgeman” stood at a toll booth on Staten Island, collecting coins from cars just before they crossed the Goethals Bridge.
At the George Washington Bridge, there was only one toll booth each that was included on the northern and southern walkways. Pedestrians and bicyclists were charged a toll.
Then in the early 1930s, the Port Authority took over operations and renamed the Hudson River Vehicular Tunnel after its chief engineer, Clifford Holland. This became known as the Holland Tunnel. At this time, the toll booths were in both the north tube (Manhattan-bound) and the south tube (New Jersey bound).
What is interesting is that PAPD officers who were on a toll collection shift were assigned to either a left-handed or a right-handed toll booth. The article goes on to say that a toll sergeant (yes, one of those existed back then) was in charge of keeping records of the numbers and types of vehicles that came through the toll booth.
A 1953 PAPD study recommended that all toll booths be equipped with left-handed booths, which eventually they all did.
Toll collection was part of a PAPD cadet’s first assignments. But in 1967, the agency’s security grew so the PAPD transitioned away from toll collection.
Tolls were collected in both directions until August 1970.
In the late 1990s, E-Z Pass was introduced which collects data much faster and more accurately. No more coins and exact change were needed anymore. Customer service, account information, and payment methods are a breeze to access online.
For those who did not want to take advantage of the E-Z Pass, toll booths have remained in existence. Many preferred the old-school way of paying cash at the tolls and going on their merry way.
But now, the Port Authority toll booths will once and for all, be demolished and permanently removed. This has been done in phases to limit traffic disruptions. The Staten Island bridge crossings were the first to install and activate the new tolling system in 2019.
On Dec. 11, 2022, the Lincoln Tunnel will be the last.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is also seeking toll increases as it looks ahead to its 2023 budget proposal. The plan will be voted upon next month.
The Port Authority announced a one-dollar toll hike at its bridges and tunnels and a 45-cent fare increase to use the AirTrain at Newark and JFK airports. Commissioners blame inflation.