So What Does It Cost To Use
a Toll Bridge Elsewhere?
Crossings Staff Report
Bay Crossings performed an assessment of
all Interstate Highway toll bridges to find out what others
are paying to cross. As a result, we came up with two
measurements: the average toll cost and the average toll
cost per mile. And since anyone can lie with statistics, we
offer our methodology up front.
Our bridge population was selected from
the Federal Highway Administration list of Interstate
Highway Toll bridges. It was then further refined to take
only those toll bridges the government deemed to be in urban
areas (and thus subject to commute traffic). This eliminates
the incredibly cheap ($2) and 11-mile long Sunshine Skyway
connecting St. Petersburg, FL to rural lower Tampa Bay. The
expensive ($14) Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel also did
not make the list, as it is rural and a state route. While
some will be unhappy, the Golden Gate Bridge also failed, as
it is a state route (but in one analysis we used it anyway).
State routes were eliminated as many
contain short, lower-priced toll bridges in urban areas
(such as Peoria, IL) that just donít compare well to the Bay
Area. International bridges to Canada were also eliminated,
even if in urban areas, due to the reduced commuter usage.
Several other toll bridges were dropped because the toll
paid includes the use of a toll highway and separating the
bridge portion is impracticable.
This leaves us with a population of
fifteen toll bridges in urban areas, four of which are in
the Bay Area. However, selecting the toll rate to use for
each bridge can also affect the outcome. For example, the
cash price for the George Washington Bridge in New York City
is $6, but the E-Zpass (Mark IV) rate is $5. Thus, the
assumption is that most commuters will use the $5 toll. The
Verrazano Narrows Bridge has a plethora of discounts that
brings it down from $11 to $3.50 for registered Staten
Islanders with the E-Zpass, so $3.50 is used.
Knowing the methodology can help you
determine if the results provide a meaningful analysis of
what others are paying for toll bridges. Our first analysis
finds a total population of fifteen bridges, 43.6 bridge
miles (which includes approaches) with an average charge per
mile of $1.30 over 2.73 average bridge miles, creating an
average bridge toll of $3.53. Note that the average charge
is far higher than all the Bay Area bridges except the
The second way to look at it is to take
the average charge per mile and the federally assigned miles
of bridge and approaches to calculate the cost for Bay Area
bridges if the toll were calculated by the average toll cost
per mile. The results for the Bay Area bridges are:
Carquinez: $2.07; Martinez: $2.85; Bay Bridge: $7.90; and
For everyone who howled that the Golden
Gate Bridge should be in the averages, adding it in raises
the average toll to $3.62 and creates the following toll
cost per mile result: Carquinez: $2.18; Martinez: $2.99; Bay
Bridge: $8.30; and Richmond: $6.39.
Logically, however, this should be a study
of what OTHER people are paying, so we should drop all Bay
Area bridges (and the Golden Gate) and re-figure the
average. Here is that result: the average toll cost rises to
$4.04 and the cost per mile rises to $1.67. Thus, the
result: Carquinez: $2.68; Martinez: $3.68; Bay Bridge:
$10.20; and Richmond: $7.86.
Now those of you with lightening quick
minds will note that our numbers donít seem to multiply
correctly. For example, $1.67 (the average toll cost per
mile that others pay) times the 6.1 miles of the Bay Bridge
is actually $10.19, not $10.20 as shown. All true, but the
actual average toll cost is $1.67241379 and when that is
multiplied by the 6.1 bridge miles, the result is
$10.20172414. For convenience, we have rounded to pennies
and ignored printing fractions of a cent, although they are
in the calculations.
Thus, we can conclude that our use of most
Bay Area bridges is far cheaper than the national average
and definitely way less than what other people pay. With the
notable exception of the Carquinez Bridge, adding a $1 toll
will still leave the other three bridges costing commuters
far less than their brethren elsewhere in the country.