Dead: Tokens at America's Major Suspension Bridges

Michigan's Mackinac Bridge will stop refunding tokens at the end of the year.

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Photo: Education Images/Universal Images Group (Getty Images)

As the country’s most heavily used paid thoroughfares transition to free-flow cashless tolling systems without toll booths, it seems inconceivable that toll road authorities are still dealing with proprietary tokens. With electronic toll collection systems like E-ZPass and FasTrak becoming a near-mandatory aspect of driving on America’s toll highways, tokens seem like relics of a bygone age.

Of the ten longest suspension bridges in the United States, the Mackinac Bridge in Michigan was the last to accept tokens as a form of toll payment. The Mackinac Bridge Authority (MBA) stopped accepting tokens at toll booths in September 2019 and began refunding the token in circulation for their cash value. On December 31st, 2022, the MBA will end its token redemption program.


MBA Bridge Director Kim Nowack said:

“Only a few customers bring in tokens anymore for reimbursement and there is quite a paperwork process each time they do. We’ve given customers three years to sell back their tokens to us and it’s time to turn remaining tokens into collectors’ items.”

Image for article titled Dead: Tokens at America's Major Suspension Bridges
Photo: Karen Bleier / AFP (Getty Images)

The five-mile-long Mackinac Bridge connects the Lower and Upper Peninsulas of Michigan across the Straits of Mackinac. With a 3,800-foot main span, the Mackinac is the third-longest suspension bridge in the United States. The bridge had over 12,000 vehicles crossings per day in 2021.


For comparison, New York City’s Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge, the longest-suspension bridge in the United States, stopped accepting tokens five year ago. New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority ceased selling tokens for its bridges and tunnels in 1998, except for Staten Island residents to cross the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge between Brooklyn and Staten Island at a discounted rate. The use of physical resident tokens continued until the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge went cashless in 2017.

Until the end of the year, tokens can still be refunded at the Mackinac Bridge Authority Office at the bridge’s north end. The first 24 tokens can be redeemed for the full price of $4 per token, then $1.50 for every token thereafter. MBA officials believe that only one percent of tokens issued are left in circulation. Though, I wouldn’t be surprised if the tokens become desired memorabilia.