Auto tolls on the Delaware Memorial Bridge are slated to increase by $1, to $4, on July 1 following unanimous approval of the new tolls by the Delaware River and Bay Authority commissioners Tuesday.
Higher tolls are needed to pay for repairs and upgrades on the bridge that connects New Jersey and Delaware at the southern end of the New Jersey Turnpike and I-295, officials said.
"The effects of age and heavy use mandate substantial capital improvements in order for the DRBA to continue to provide safe and efficient travel" over the bridge, DRBA chairman Bill Lowe said in a statement.
The governors of New Jersey and Delaware have 10 days to veto the new tolls. Gov. Christie vetoed the authority's new capital budget in March because the plan assumed passage of new tolls before getting the governors' approval.
Christie said then it was "inappropriate for DRBA to have budgeted on the basis of revenue of which DRBA cannot yet reasonably anticipate."
The authority said the higher tolls would generate about $22 million per year.
The money would be used for a number of projects over several years, including I-295 improvements ($29 million), bridge painting and structural repairs ($28 million), bridge cable and suspender rope inspections ($9 million), electronic toll upgrades ($10 million), and dock work and new passenger loader tubes at the Cape May-Lewes Ferry ($15 million).
Discounts for commuters and frequent bridge travelers would also rise but would remain well below the base tolls.
The commuter toll would increase to $1 from the current 75 cents, and the frequent-traveler toll would increase to $1.25 from $1. The commuter discount applies to 25 trips taken within 30 days, and the frequent-traveler discount applies to 20 trips taken within 90 days. Both discounts require the toll-payer to sign up for the authority's E-ZPass program.
The last increase in the basic toll was on May 1, 2000. Discounted tolls have not been increased since 1987.
The DRBA has revenues of about $100 million a year, 75 percent of which comes from bridge tolls.
The authority also operates the Cape May-Lewes Ferry, the Three Forts Ferry Crossing, and five small airports.