Bay City, MI Bridge Tolls: Everything You Need to Know
On Dec. 22 — after a year of rehabilitation — Bay City’s Liberty Bridge officially becomes a toll bridge. So, what does that mean for commuters in the city and Great Lakes Bay Region and tourists who travel to Bay City?
Well, from the time it opens through March, there’s nothing commuters need to worry about in terms of paying tolls.
Bay City Bridge Partners, which owns and operates Liberty and Independence bridges, announced this month that when the bridge opens on Dec. 22, no one will be charged a toll for crossing the span through March 31.
That gives residents and those who often use the bridge time to be prepared for April 1, when tolls start being levied.
Like anything new to a community, there are plenty of questions about the tolls, who pays, and what needs to be done to ensure you pay the lowest rate. We will do our best to answer all of those questions and more.
No. This grace period is designed to give people time to use the new bridge and to register for a transponder to install in their car. No one will be charged to use the bridge during this time.
This is where things get more complicated.
First, everyone who plans on using the bridge should register for a transponder to achieve the lowest price for crossing the bridge. You can register for a transponder here.
Here are the basic toll prices for those WITH A TRANSPONDER if their vehicle that DOESN’T have a trailer attached to it:
- Bay City residents: Free through the end of 2027. City residents will be charged a toll beginning Jan. 1, 2028. That amount hasn’t been announced at this time. Officials previously estimated it at 50 cents per crossing and a discounted monthly unlimited fee.
- Non-Bay City residents: $2 per crossing or $15/month for UNLIMITED CROSSINGS. If you use the bridge twice daily for more than four days out of the month, it makes the most sense to pay the $15/month option for unlimited crossings.
- Commercial vehicles: $2 per crossing. No monthly fee option for unlimited crossings.
If a vehicle doesn’t have a transponder, it’s charged a $5.50 toll. A photo of the vehicle’s license plate is taken, and a bill is sent to the address where the vehicle is registered.
Here are the toll prices for those WITH A TRANSPONDER in their vehicle WITH a trailer in tow and some larger vans. These are known as Class 2 vehicles.
- Bay City resident: $2 per crossing.
- Non-Bay City resident: $4 per crossing.
- Commercial vehicles: $4 per crossing.
There is no monthly subscription option for unlimited crossing for Class 2 vehicles.
If a Class 2 vehicle doesn’t have a transponder, it’s tolled $7.50 per crossing, and an invoice is sent to the address the vehicle is registered in.
Finally, Class 3 vehicles, which include large semi-trailer trucks (commercial trucks), are charged $8 per crossing with a transponder or $11.50 without a transponder.
No. Bicyclists and pedestrians can cross the bridge free of charge.
Is there a cost to get a transponder?
No. When you register with Bay City Bridge Partners, you will receive your transponder and tie a payment method to it. If you’re a non-resident who opts for unlimited crossings, you will be charged $15 once per month. If you occasionally cross the bridge, you’ll be charged $2 every time you cross.
So, if I live in Bay City, I don’t have to pay any tolls on Liberty Bridge?
Yes, through the end of 2027, but you must have a transponder in your vehicle registered to your primary (home) address in Bay City. If you don’t have a transponder, you’ll be charged $5.50 per crossing, and an invoice will be sent to the address your vehicle is registered in.
My mailing address is Bay City. Does that mean I qualify for the Bay City resident discount?
Not necessarily. Only residents who reside in Bay City AND have their cars registered at an address inside the city limits qualify for the residential discount.
That means residents of neighboring Bangor Township, Essexville, Hampton Township, Monitor Township, Portsmouth Township, and Frankenlust Township — all places that possibly have a Bay City mailing address — do not qualify for the discount.
If you’re unsure if you’re a Bay City resident, those renting a home can check this map to see if their address falls within the city limits. If you own a home, you receive two property tax bills from the city or township you reside in. If you pay taxes to the city of Bay City on your primary residence, you’re a Bay City resident.
IMPORTANT: If you recently moved into Bay City, make sure the address you registered your vehicle to is updated to that address. You won’t qualify for the residential discount if your car is registered outside the city limits.
I live in Essexville and use Liberty Bridge every day for work. How is this fair that I’m not considered a resident?
The new bridge toll will be most difficult for Bangor Township, Essexville, and Hampton Township residents who previously relied on Liberty Bridge to get to Bay City’s West Side.
The discount was only extended to Bay City residents because their tax dollars previously went toward the maintenance and operations of the bridges. Despite not paying anything toward it, everyone outside of Bay City was afforded the opportunity to use the bridge.
This may not seem fair to those who reside outside of Bay City’s city limits, but it was ultimately negotiated to be this way.
I live outside of Bay City but own rental properties in Bay City. Can I qualify for the discount?
No. Your discount is based on your primary residence, where your vehicle should be registered.
I live in Bay City, but my car is registered outside the city. Do I qualify for the discount?
No. You will need to update your car registration address to your primary residence address in Bay City at the Michigan Secretary of State.
I have multiple vehicles registered in my family. Do I need a transponder for each vehicle?
Yes. If you have multiple vehicles that cross Liberty Bridge, you will need a transponder for each vehicle. If you’re a non-Bay City resident and need unlimited crossings for all vehicles, you’ll pay the $15 per month toll on all vehicles. So, if you have three vehicles that need to cross the bridge, that would be $45/month.
I own an SUV in the winter and a convertible for the summer. Do I need two separate transponders?
Yes, but you can work with Bay City Bridge Partners to sort out your account for the best possible deal. If you’re paying $15/month for unlimited crossings in your SUV during the winter, you could change that to $2 per crossing in the summer and then pay $15/month for your convertible. Since you likely would never use your convertible in the winter, you can pause your $15/month unlimited fee.
Is there a discounted toll for low-income households?
If your household meets state low-income guidelines, you don’t have to pay tolls. You need to register for a free transponder to avoid having a toll invoice sent to the address your vehicle is registered in. Bring documentation of your low-income status when registering for a transponder.
Do emergency vehicles need to pay tolls?
No. Emergency vehicles (ambulance, police, fire trucks, etc.), school buses, and city-owned vehicles do not have to pay tolls. That includes all emergency vehicles — even if they’re not registered in Bay City’s limits. So, if a Bangor Township fire truck responds with mutual aid, it will not be charged a toll. Those vehicles will need transponders.
I have a transponder for the I-65 Kentucky-Indiana State Line Bridge in my car. Are there any issues adding a second transponder?
You’re in luck! If you don’t reside in Bay City, you can continue using that transponder because Bay City’s toll system is part of the EZ-Pass network.
If you’re a Bay City resident and want the locals discount, you will need a Bay City-specific account and transponder. That transponder, though, would be compatible when you travel down to Kentucky and Indiana — or any other toll road or bridge in the EZ-Pass network.
Won’t they close the other bridges in order to force people to use the tolled bridges?
Who are they? The city? Nope. The city doesn’t own the two other bridges — the state does. So, they really don’t have the jurisdiction to do that. United Bridge Partners? Nope. They also don’t have jurisdiction to close down the other two bridges.
Could Veterans Memorial or Lafayette bridges experience more wear and tear and then close down for future repairs? Absolutely. UBP estimates a 30% drop in the average daily use of their tolled bridges. If traffic needs to get across and motorists don’t want to pay the toll, they’ll take one of the two state-owned bridges.