Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Road Toll Congestion Handled Differently Both Sides of the Pond

Dartford and I-95 - A Tale of Two Toll Booths
Shipping News Feature

UK / USA – Although Newark and Dartford are thousands of miles apart they share one common factor which has for many motorists over the years caused them to curse – the presence of a major toll collection point that has cost them considerable time caught in congestion waiting to clear the charging booths. Yesterday this similarity was causing newspaper ink to flow, though for different reasons.

In the UK the British government has cleared up a question concerning its six-month trial of the suspension of charges at the Dartford crossing at times of “severe congestion” which began on the 1st of July so as to help clear backlogs and keep one of the key arterials in southern England running.

The new guidelines have defined severe congestion to mean queues of at least twelve miles in either direction – from the Dartford Crossing to M25 Junction 28 (A12 junction) for southbound traffic or to M25 Junction 4 (A224) for northbound traffic.

The decision has not be well received by those who use the crossing regularly as it does little to actually address the fairly constant level of congestion experienced by users at most times of the day. Speaking to the Evening Echo newspaper Rob Nordon, company secretary for Purfleet-based haulage operators The Canute Group, said:

“The conditions they have set are ridiculous. Traffic regularly queues back to junction 28 every Friday and it is because the tolls are there.

“They keep them in place because of the money it brings in. A common sense approach is needed to this.”

Much of the anger relates to a long standing belief that the government has reneged on previous commitments to drop all charges on the crossing – which handles almost 150,000 vehicle crossings a day – once construction costs had been covered of the bridge/tunnel crossing and a maintenance fund had been accrued. Though this was achieved by 2002/3 charges continued (and are soon to increase) on the grounds that this would reduce traffic use and help with the congestion problems that have been endemic at Dartford for many years. With little success, apparently.

The Dartford consultation documents can be found here and anyone wishing to make their opinion known on the subject is encouraged to do so by emailing:


or else writing to:

Claudette Bagalo,

Dartford Crossing Charges Consultation,

Department for Transport,

Great Minster House,

76 Marsham Street,

London SW1P 4DR

It certainly seems that complaints in America have been listened to. A similar problem with congestion caused by toll booths had been experienced on the I-95 at Newark’s Toll Plaza. However, following a $32 million (£19.5 million) reconstruction, funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), the plaza has been reopened with a range of improvements that will allow 80,000-110,000 daily users to avoid the snarls ups that had beset the choke point for years.

Key to the development are two dedicated lanes in each direction fitted with E-ZPass technology that allows users to drive straight through the toll at normal speeds.

Speaking at a ceremony yesterday to mark the official reopening Delaware State Governor,Jack Markell said:

“Delaware has become considerably more popular with out-of-state visitors and commuters since these lanes opened. I've heard from people up and down the east coast expressing thanks that our state made this a transportation priority.

"Motorists and truckers depend on being able to move themselves, their commerce and their families through and to Delaware. We must continue to build the roads, bridges and infrastructure improvements that move us forward."

These sentiments have been echoed by the U.S. Secretary for Transportation, Ray LaHood, who wrote that:

“These new lanes will save gas and time while reducing emissions for the more than hundred thousand drivers who pass through the area every day. And, because I-95 is a critical freight corridor, connecting economies from Maine to Florida, three million truck drivers each year will save money and hours-of-service.”

(pic: © Nigel Chadwick)