Survey: Toll-road traffic still lagging pre-pandemic levels

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Traffic on some major U.S. toll roads has rebounded from lows reached during the height of the coronavirus pandemic but the range of the recovery varies widely in different parts of the country, according to a survey released Thursday.

The International Bridge, Tunnel & Turnpike Association, an organization of owners and operators of toll facilities, compared traffic volume statistics for late March and early April, when the pandemic was peaking, to a year earlier. It then revisited those statistics in the first week of August.

“Transportation has seen many catastrophic events in our history from the 1989 Bay Area Earthquake, to September 11th and Superstorm Sandy, but the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on transportation systems across the globe is a different beast altogether,” IBTTA executive director Patrick D. Jones said.

Highlights from the survey:


Among those surveyed, the Ohio Turnpike and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey showed the strongest recovery, with Ohio going from a 49% decrease in early April — which later reached as high as 70% for non-truck traffic — to 16% for August 1-7, compared to 2019. Officials credited truck traffic delivering essential goods. The Port Authority, which operates bridges and tunnels in the New York City region, went from a 65% decrease in April to a 14% decrease in August.


Georgia’s State Road and Tollway Authority, which manages toll collection on roads including Interstate 75 and Interstate 85, reported the steepest decrease: 79% in early April. Traffic volume remained down 53% in the first week of August, officials told the survey.


New Jersey’s two north-south toll roads, the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway, showed decreases of 69% and 64%, respectively, in April. By August, traffic was down by 27% on the Turnpike and 23% on the Parkway. The Atlantic City Expressway, a popular route for beach and casino visitors, remained 25% behind 2019 for the first week of August.


Traffic on the Pennsylvania Turnpike went from a 63% decrease in April to a 23% decrease in August, with traffic revenues currently down about 27%. Turnpike Commission CEO Mark Compton told surveyors it may take two years for revenues to recover, and four to five years for traffic volume.


In California, the San Francisco Bay Area Toll Authority reported a 22% traffic volume decrease in early August, compared with a 56% decrease in April. The Irvine-based Transportation Corridor Agencies, which operate 51 miles (82 kilometers) of state toll roads in Orange County, saw weekly transactions of 1.9 million drop by 66% in April. By this month, they had recovered to approximately 1.3 million.


Colorado’s E-470 Public Highway Authority, which operates toll roads in the Denver area, experienced a 70% drop in early April and has slashed its capital and operating budgets and delayed some 2020 projects to next year or beyond, officials said. Traffic volume in early August showed a 37% decrease from 2019.

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