I’ve traveled this route many times, and have found ways to avoid most of the major tolls. Obviously, the time of day you are traveling plays a major factor in the amount of time it takes. Try not to Drive anywhere near a major city during rush hour unless you’re ready for lots of traffic. Here’s what I do:
Traveling north on I-95, take I-695 West when you reach the Baltimore beltway. You’ll meet back up with I-95 north of Baltimore, having avoided all three Baltimore tolls, and adding only about 10 minutes to your trip (avoid this way during rush hour).
Once north of Baltimore, you have two options. You can take I-95 north over the Tydings bridge, where there will unfortunately is a $5.00 toll, or you can take the advice of helpful reader Matt, and buy a pass for the Hatem bridge for $5.00, allowing unlimited crossings for one year. If you have this decal, exit on Exit 89 (the last exit before the toll) then get on US 40 East. After crossing the bridge, take a left on MD 222 to get back onto 95 North. (Thanks Matt!)
Before long, you’ll get to Delaware. Right before you get to the Delaware border, exit onto Rt. 279 North, Elkton Road. Turn Right on Rt. 2/Rt. 4 (Christina Parkway). Turn right on Rt. 896 (South College Avenue). Get back onto I-95 North, having avoided the $3.00 toll.
Ignore all signs for New York and New Jersey, and instead follow signs for Philadelphia. You’ll take I-95 north right through Philly, and head north towards Trenton (do not take this route during rush hour). Cross into Trenton on I-95, the only bridge into New Jersey from Pennsylvania without a toll.
From there, immediately exit onto Rt. 29 going East and South. This road has stoplights, but runs pretty quickly, and will take you across town without trouble. Rt. 29 then turns into I-195, and then meets the New Jersey Turnpike, where you can head north towards New York City. You’ve just avoided over $10 in tolls, depending on where you were coming from.
Crossing from Pennsylvania or Delaware into New Jersey
How To Get Around It:
There are several bridges crossing from Pennsylvania and Delaware into New Jersey, and all of them have tolls except one. Taking I-95 north from Philadelphia (it’s a separate I-95 from the Jersey Turnpike), you will eventually cross into New Jersey right at Trenton. It is then a quick zip across town on Rt. 29 along the river, which turns into I-195, and then meets the New Jersey Turnpike, or a slightly longer trip around the north of the city on I-95, which the turns into I-295, and then meets up with I-195, which takes you to the New Jersey Turnpike. Either way, you’ll end up at the Jersey turnpike, saving several dollars on the tolls for the turnpike, Deleware Memorial bridge, and possibly even more.
Toll Location: I-95 on the Delaware/Maryland Border
Cost: $3.00 Each Way
How To Get Around It:
This is by far the easiest toll to get around, since there is no body of water to go around. You simply have to get off the highway, cross the state line, and get back on the highway. Here’s how to do it…..
Going North – Exit on Rt. 279 North, Elkton Road. Turn Right on Rt. 2/Rt. 4. Turn right on Rt. 72. Get back onto I-95 North.
Going South – Exit onto Rt. 72 North, towards University of Delaware. Turn left onto Rt. 2/Rt. 4. Turn left onto Rt. 2/Elkton Road. Get back onto I-95 South.
Toll Location: Baltimore Harbor Tunnel
Cost: $2.00 Each Way How To Get Around It: There are two ways to avoid any of the three Baltimore tolls (Harbor Tunnel, Fort McHenry Tunnel, and Key Bridge). One is only for the adventurous, and should be attempted only during low traffic times. The other is much simpler, never takes you off an interstate, and adds about 10-15 minutes to your drive for a $2.00 savings.
Simple Method – Coming from the north or the south, instead of staying on I-95 through Baltimore, or getting on I-895 through Baltimore, take I-695 (the Baltimore Beltway) West until it meets back up with I-95 on the opposite side of the city. During rush hour, the West side of the beltway can be pretty congested, and the $2.00 is probably worth it. At any other time of day, there is seldom bad traffic, and you’re saving $2.00 by driving an extra 10-15 minutes.
The second, more adventurous method is to go through Baltimore city. From the south, take I-95 north, and exit at I-395. Stay to the left as the freeway ends. Go past Camden Yards and turn right on Pratt Street. Go past the National Aquarium and the Inner Harbor, and then turn right a South President Street. You’ll then immediately turn left onto Eastern Avenue. Take Eastern Avenue all the way to I-95 North, past the tunnel. no toll for you.
From the north, take I-95 South to Eastern Avenue East. Go a few miles until you are close to downtown. Turn right on South President Street and then take your first possible left onto East Lombard Street. Take this to Light Street, where you’ll turn left. Follow the signs from there to I-95 South, past the toll.
Depending on the time of day, these methods of avoiding the Harbor Tunnel Toll may be worthwhile or they may not. Plan ahead and check local traffic conditions as you enter the area.