Last year, at the groundbreaking for the Newark Toll Plaza Improvement Project on I-95, Federal Highway Deputy Administrator Greg Nadeau said, “The age of waiting in line at this toll plaza is nearly over." With yesterday's ribbon-cutting, FHWA Administrator Victor Mendez was happy to prove him right.
According to the Delaware DOT, now that the plaza has two highway-speed E-ZPass lanes in each direction, more than 50 percent of traffic won't even have to slow down to pay tolls. If you are a frequent driver of I-95 through Delaware, that is welcome news.
For many Mid-Atlantic travelers, getting through the toll booths in a timely way was a regular obstacle to an on-time arrival. Average daily traffic at the toll plaza exceeds 100,000 vehicles and--on summer and holiday weekends--regularly goes beyond 140,000. Wait times of 30 to 45 minutes were normal for summer weekends, and waits of an hour or longer hour were not unusual during holiday weekends.
"We would drive with our young children to visit my parents in Philadelphia," says Jennifer Welch of Maryland. "And as we approached the Delaware line, my whole body would tense up, anticipating the toll plaza and the inevitable delay. The kids hated it, too. It got so frustrating that we stopped making the trip as often."
But that was then.
On a trip last week, Welch says, everything was different: "First of all, there was no delay--none. And for a summer weekend, that's just unheard of. Then, with our E-ZPass, we were able to sail through the plaza not just at normal toll booth speed, but at highway speed. It's a completely different experience now."
As Delaware DOT Secretary Shailen Bhatt said, "Today, our businesses and citizens are competing in a global marketplace. We need to make sure we are making the strategic investments to keep the arteries of our economy flowing smoothly."
The Newark Toll Plaza is a great example of what the Obama Administration has been doing in communities across the country for more than two years. With help from partners like Delaware's U.S. Senator Tom Carper and its Governor Jack Markell, we have worked hard to create jobs--more than 300 on this one project--while building a new foundation for economic competitiveness.
Now, we've still got a long way to go; many people are still struggling financially, and at the same time, our transportation network still needs our attention. So we must continue putting our friends and neighbors to work repairing our roads, bridges, and transit systems and building the safest, fastest, most efficient ways of moving people and products.
We can still do big things in America. Together with our partners in Delaware, we solved the challenge of the Newark Toll Plaza bottleneck; I know we can solve other transportation challenges. There's work to be done, and DOT stands ready.