NEW HOPE, PA – Motorists, residents and other interested parties have one remaining week to provide comment on new environmental documentation the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission has issued on its cashless tolling system plans for the I95/Scudder Falls Bridge Improvement Project.
A 65-page Addendum and 244 pages of corresponding appendices for the project’s Environmental Assessment were issued on November 30, commencing a 30-day period for public review and comment that is set to end on Tuesday, January 3, 2012. The original 561-page Environmental Assessment (EA) document for the project was issued over two years ago.
The EA documentation – now totaling 870 pages – identifies and assesses how the project may impact the environment, including aesthetics, air quality, noise, water quality and aquatic life, historic resources, and cultural resources.
The EA process is required under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969. The Commission has carried out its EA process in cooperation with the Pennsylvania and New Jersey Departments of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).
The Addendum was prepared to evaluate the potential impacts of the cashless tolling system – no toll booths – that will be established in the southbound direction at the Scudder Falls Replacement Bridge. The Addendum also officially discloses the Bridge Commission’s April 2010 decision to include the construction of a bicycle/pedestrian pathway on the new bridge.
Options for Providing Comment on EA Addendum
Motorists, residents, and other concerned parties have two ways to provide comment:
- E-mail – ScudderfallsbridgeEAcomments@hntb.com
- S. Mail – Send to Kevin Skeels, Senior Program Area Manager, DRJTBC, 110 Wood and Grove Streets, Morrisville, PA 19067.
Viewing/downloading the EA Addendum
The easiest way for area residents, motorists or other interested parties to review the EA Addendum documentation is to go to the Web site – www.scudderfallsbridge.com — the Commission created in October 2003 to keep the public informed of project developments.
Copies of the document also are available for viewing at the following six locations:
- Lower Makefield Township Municipal Building, 1100 Edgewood Road, Yardley, PA. 19067;
- Ewing Township’s Municipal Clerk’s Office, 2 Jake Garzio Drive, Ewing, N.J. 08628;
- The Yardley-Makefield branch of the Bucks County Free Library, 1080 Edgewood Road, Lower Makefield Township, PA.19067;
- The Mercer County Library – Ewing Branch, 61 Scotch Road Ewing, N.J. 08628;
- The DRJTBC’s Administration Building at 110 Wood & Grove Streets Morrisville, PA. 19067; and
- PennDOT District 6, 7000 Geerdes Boulevard, King of Prussia, PA. 19406
EA Addendum Process
Comments that the Commission receives on the EA Addendum will add to the public record that has been compiled to date following the December 2009 release of the 4-1/2inch thick EA.
As part of the current EA Addendum review process, the Commission held a December 15 public hearing at the Sheraton Bucks County Hotel in Langhorne, PA. The session attracted more than 65 signed-in attendees, including 25 people who provided oral or written testimony.
Testimony included residents of Yardley, Lower Makefield, and Ewing, as well as motorists who use the bridge. A spokesperson for the Laborers International Union of North America testified in strong support of the project, its impact on reducing congestion, improving commerce and creating jobs. The Bicycle Coalition of
Philadelphia also voiced its strong support for the project, particularly the inclusion of the bicycle and pedestrian pathway. Testimony also was given by a member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and a representative from the Bucks County Transportation Management Association (TMA).
The Commission will have an opportunity to prepare official responses in the public record to the various testimony and comments it receives on the EA Addendum. All of the material – public comments and responses from the Commission and its project team – will be submitted to the Federal Highway Administration.
Ultimately, the EA documents, public comments, and Commission responses will be used by the FHWA in making a NEPA decision for the project, namely whether any significant environmental impacts will result from the project.
A date for a NEPA decision by the FHWA has not been set. If the FHWA were to issue a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI), the Commission could then move the project to final design and then construction.
Scudder Falls Bridge Tolling Plan
The core focus of the Addendum is the all-electronic cashless tolling facility the Commission plans to construct on or near the Pennsylvania side of the replacement bridge. The Commission plans to use an all-electronic cashless tolling (AECT) system consisting of an overhead gantry that would hold E-ZPass toll-tag readers, highresolution cameras and near-infrared lights.
Vehicles would pass beneath the gantry at highway speeds. Tolls would be collected using the E-ZPass system or through video capture of vehicle license plates and billing.
Such gantries are increasingly being used by toll agencies nationally and internationally to collect tolls while avoiding the congestion drawbacks of conventional toll plazas. The Commission already owns and operates two open-road-tolling gantries at the agency’s I78 and Delaware Water Gap (I-80) toll bridges, where Express E-ZPass service – toll paying at highway speeds – is offered adjacent to conventional barrier toll booth plazas. The recommended method of toll paying at the Scudder Falls Bridge would be through EZPass. Non-E-ZPass customers would be billed by mail through the video capture of license plates. An administrative fee would be attached to each non-E-ZPass transaction. Non-E-ZPass customers who pre-register their license plates with the Commission would be charged lower fees than customers who do not register their license plates.
The Commission has not determined what toll rates or the schedule of administrative fees will be for the new bridge.
The administrative fees for non-E-Z Pass customers are necessary because the cost to the Commission to collect video tolls is significantly higher than the cost to collect tolls via E-ZPass. The fees help offset the cost of looking up vehicular information, printing and mailing the statement and any subsequent actions needed to recover the toll.
Analyses conducted prior to the issuance of the Addendum concluded that up to 84 percent of customers at the new bridge would be E-ZPass users. The Addendum states that the Commission will conduct E-ZPass sign-up efforts in the region prior to implementation of tolling at the bridge.
More Project Information
For more information, individuals should access the project Web site – www.scudderfallsbridge.com — or call the project hotline telephone number at 1-800879-0849.
About the Commission
The Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission was formed by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the State of New Jersey in 1934. It operates seven toll bridges and 13 toll-supported bridges, two of which are pedestrian-only spans. The Commission is a self-supporting public-service agency that receives neither federal nor state tax dollars to finance its projects or operations. Funding for the operations, maintenance and upkeep of its bridges and related transportation facilities is solely derived from revenues collected at its toll bridges. The Commission’s jurisdiction extends along the Delaware River from the Philadelphia-Bucks County line north to the New Jersey/New York border. The bridges carried more than 139 million cars and trucks in 2010. For more information about the Commission and its various initiatives to deliver safer and more convenient bridge travel for its customers, please see: www.drjtbc.org.