A portion of the new Scudder Falls Bridge will open Wednesday, with a new toll to quickly follow.
The bridge over the Delaware River will connect Ewing, N.J., with Lower Makefield in Bucks County, and will be the first stage of new construction to be open to vehicles, according to the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission. The portion opening Wednesday will eventually be the westbound lanes only. For the next two weeks, the old bridge will remain open for traffic into New Jersey, but then will close. The new westbound lanes will carry traffic in both directions until the new lanes to New Jersey are finished, likely in 2021.
The old four-lane bridge is expected to be demolished in the coming year, according to the commission’s website. The final replacement will be a 1,815-foot span carrying three main traffic lanes in each direction on I-295, along with auxiliary lanes for vehicles getting onto and off the bridge at interchanges. The construction work also included revamping the Route 29 interchange in New Jersey and the Taylorsville Road interchange in Pennsylvania.
The charging of tolls won’t begin until July 14. All tolling will be done on the lanes into Pennsylvania and without toll booths. Drivers without E-ZPass will have a bill mailed to the address linked to their cars’ license plates.
The base toll for a passenger vehicle with E-ZPass will be $1.25, but drivers who cross the bridge into Pennsylvania 16 times or more a month will get a reduced rate of $.75. For drivers without E-ZPass, the toll will be $2.60. Rates will be higher for trucks and buses.
Construction on the 4.4-mile, $534 million project began in July 2017. The old bridge, built in 1959, was deemed functionally obsolete. The new span, when complete, is expected to carry about 22 million vehicles a year, said Pete Peterson, a spokesman for the toll bridge commission.
The construction project drew criticism from the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club that the bridge is larger than needed, particularly now that construction linking I-95 directly to the New Jersey Turnpike recently created a new large thruway over the Delaware River. The group was also concerned that drivers would try to avoid the toll by routing onto other, smaller bridges, such as those at Washington Crossing or Lambertville, N.J.
“As people avoid paying the toll, it will cause backups on other bridges, where it will create more pollution,” said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey chapter.
Peterson said traffic modeling predicted that most drivers would continue using the Scudder Falls Bridge, and would not congest nearby smaller crossings.
“If those diversions were going to happen, they probably would have happened during the construction stage,” he said, “because of all the traffic diversion.”