Ask Axios: Where all that Nickel Bridge money goes
Question: How much money does the Nickel Bridge make every year, and when will it get a smart tag lane?
The background: Ah, the Nickel Bridge, the smallest, prettiest and perhaps most contentious bridge in all of Richmond.
- The 97-year-old neighborhood bridge, officially named the Boulevard Bridge, is the only non-highway toll road in the city.
- It opened in 1925 and was built to lure homebuyers across the river and into newly built Westover Hills.
The bridge was free for Westover Hills residents until 1960 and a nickel toll for everyone else. Thus, the moniker.
- The toll steadily rose over the years and, since 2008, has cost 35 cents.
But back to the question: Pre-COVID, the Boulevard Bridge brought in between $1.4 million and $1.5 million in toll revenue annually.
- That dropped to $1.3 million in fiscal year 2020 and $954,000 in 2021, the latest year for which figures are available.
The intrigue: Traffic and revenues were dropping before the pandemic. Transactions were down 3.8% in fiscal year 2019 from 2018, according to RMTA reports.
Onto a smart tag lane: Last year, EZ Pass transactions on the Boulevard Bridge passed the 50% mark for the first time ever (they account for 70% of payment methods on Powhite Parkway and the Downtown Expressway).
- But there are no plans — and no specific threshold — to add a dedicated smart tag lane to the bridge, RMTA auditor Paula Watson tells Axios.
- And there are no plans to end tolls on the bridge.
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