Expensive NYC Bridge Tolls Every Smart Gearhead Must Avoid (And Ways To Get Around Them)

Tappan Zee Bridge 7 photos
Photo: Wikimedia Commons ( Fair Use)
George Washington BridgeTappan Zee BridgeWhitestone BridgeQueensboro BridgeNYC routeTappan Zee Bridge
New York City has a vast and vibrant car culture, but E-ZPass tolls are one thing every gearhead from Long Island to New Jersey will start to panic sweat when they hear them mentioned.
There are endless articles online with horror stories of people racking up preposterously high amounts in toll fines for driving over toll bridges with no E-ZPass, or for linking unrecognized credit cards to E-ZPass accounts.

Prices on these tolls are through the roof and as of right now, these hikes have no end in sight. Bad news if you were planning on road tripping into the New York Metro area.

There are thankfully, a few workarounds devised by locals to avoid driving on these monetary land mines. Here are a New York City few toll bridges you should avoid at all costs, and cheaper routes you should be using.

Avoid at All Costs: George Washington Bridge (I-95 Fort Lee, New Jersey to Manhattan)

New York and New Jersey drivers are notorious for a very good reason, and the George Washington Bridge showcases the worst of the worst from both states on a regular basis. This hub connecting Manhattan Island and Fort Lee, New Jersey, is regularly host to hideous accidents on top of the near-permanent bumper-to-bumper traffic.

George Washington Bridge
Photo: Google Creative Commons
One Daily News article reported how a couple in their 50's were gruesomely killed when they were cut off by a person driving a Corvette. This constant stop and go and then suddenly stopping again is a recipe for disaster, especially for distracted drivers. This is just one of dozens of others over the years, scary prospects for all but experienced drivers.

Want to add insult to gruesome injury, the proud state of New York will charge you $16 for the privilege of scaring you half to death by being cut off by tractor-trailers. You can save a little bit of money by purchasing a New York State E-ZPass, but this is largely offset by the cost of the device itself.

The weight and axel count drives this toll price into outer space, truckers unfortunate enough to be forced to take this bridge eastbound into Manhattan at beak hour would have to fork over a cool $110.  Don't even think about disregarding that payment, the New York Toll Authority can and will impose thousands of dollars in fines.

Use Instead: Tappan Zee Bridge (I-287 Nyack to Tarrytown)

Hardly anyone cares that disgraced ex-New York governor Andrew Cuomo slapped his late father's name on this brand new double-wide cable bridge. Locals always have and always will call it the Tappan Zee.

Tappan Zee Bridge
Photo: Wikimedia Creative Commons (Fair Use)
This bridge is one of the New York metroplex's hidden gems. Not only does it provide an alternative way of getting between New York and New Jersey, but the toll here will only run you $6.83 going eastbound and free going west - this is even less with an E-ZPass subscription.

On the way into the city for a night on the town, but you don't feel like risking your life on the GW Bridge? We recommend hopping on the scenic Palisades Parkway, that'll take you right to the eastbound entrance of the bridge. Not only that, but this new bridge, which opened only four years ago, is also stunningly beautiful when illuminated at night. It's the perfect bridge to cruise across in a Delorean, pretending it's the 1980s.

Avoid at All Costs: Whitestone Bridge

Queens is not immune to the E-ZPass plague, the most ethnically diverse NYC boro has two bridges connecting it to the Bronx across the East River. We'll give a passing mention to the Throgs Neck Bridge. But for now, we're going to focus on its counterpart, the Whitestone. Without EZ Pass, a trip either way across this bridge will cost you a harsh $10.17. Forget to pay the toll, and you'll regret it.

The Whitestone is one of the most profitable toll bridges for the New York Tolling Authority. This is largely off the backs of thousands of dollars in late fees if people don't pay tolls promptly.

Queensboro Bridge
Photo: Google Creative Commons
With only a 40 mph (64 kph) speed limit, speeding tickets are frequent and infuriating on this bridge. If only there was some other way to get around this headache waiting to happen. Happily, there is.

Use Instead: Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge

The 59th street bridge has seen New York City rise to the mega-city it is today. Opened in 1909,  Ford Model T's happily traversed this historic gem of a bridge when it was brand new.

Today, its two levels of roadway whisk modern traffic across the East River for free both ways via New York State Route 25, which starts at the west inlet of the Queensboro and ends over 100 miles away at Orient Point on Long Island.

Taking this route does require using the FDR and Harlem River drive ring roads around Manhattan, and a brief bout of driving through Manhattan itself. Rest assured, NYC taxi drivers are not out to crash into you. As long as you remain calm, drive carefully, and always watch for pedestrians, it's basically the same as driving anywhere else in America.

The route is significantly longer than the usual sprint from the George Washing Bridge to The Whitestone and back again.

A trip like that would cost five times as much just to get from New Jersey to Long Island and even more going back. When you consider that lots of commuters regularly make this trip for work, maybe this local trick doesn't seem so ridiculous. So next time you decide to take a road trip through the great Empire State, now you know how for a lot less money.
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