Officials at the Delaware River Joint Bridge Toll Commission (DRJBTC) say non-E-ZPass holders who were diverted through E-ZPass lanes on I-78 yesterday due to a fatal accident at a Pa. toll plaza, will not see any tickets or fines following the temporary diversion.
"They did divert into the express E-ZPass entry, but no violations were recorded for that period," DRJBTC spokesman Ethan Vickers said.
According to police, Daniel Murphy of Hackettstown, N.J. stopped in toll lane 4 of I-78 near Morgan Hill Road when a ShopRite tractor-trailer driven by an unidentified 55-year-old from Allentown, Pa. rammed into Murphy's 200 Ford Taurus wagon, pushing both vehicles through the tollbooth. The vehicles eventually came to a stop several lanes over against an embankment and burst into flames.
The Commission issued travel delay warnings for westbound lanes on I-78 in Warren County, N.J. and shutdown a portion of the westbound lanes between the last exit in N.J. and the first exit in Pa. yesterday around 8:30 a.m. E-ZPass violations were temporarily suspended and traffic was diverted through eastbound and Express E-ZPass facility lanes until 6:25 p.m., when Vickers says the violation procedures went back into effect.
Parts of the accident wreckage left one of the plaza's tollbooths severely damaged. Vickers says DRJBTC officials are very early in the process of creating an action plan to repair the damages, but said the tollbooth is structurally sound.
With one tollbooth closed for repairs, the toll plaza will now operate three mixed-mode lanes that will accept both cash and E-ZPass. Vickers says the conversion to mixed-mode lanes should not have a significant effect on E-ZPass users because the site also has two separate Express E-ZPass lanes that drivers can use.
"65-percent of the traffic at that particular crossing uses the Express E-ZPass entry, which is in multiple lanes to the left. So, the majority or two-thirds of the traffic, they are passing without having to stop at the toll booth," Vickers said.
Due to the toll plaza's reduction from four lanes to three lanes, however, the Commission said westbound I-78 drivers paying cash tolls at the plaza may encounter traffic congestion and some delays during peak traffic hours until the fourth toll booth lane is repaired. Overall, Vickers said he expects minimal effects to traffic on the roadway while the repairs are being completed.
"There may be occasional impact for cash paying customers in high traffic times until that repair is completed and that 4th toll booth is functional again," Vickers said. "But I would say that pretty minimalistic traffic issues will be ongoing from this incident."