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Home > Columnists > Alice Park
December 28, 2011

Major Toll Increases for Turnpike & Parkway Upon New Year

The 50% toll increase on the Parkway will supposedly go towards relieving congestion. (UPI/John Anderson)

      News Editor

Driving along the Garden State Parkway (GSP) and New Jersey Turnpike, there are signs alerting motorists of toll increases, which will go into effect on January 1, 2012 at 6:30 am. An increase of 53% will hit the NJ Turnpike, while those who take the GSP will pay an extra 50%.

The toll increase is part of a two-phase program, adopted in October 2008, with the approval of then-governor Jon Corzine. The first increase at the end of 2008 raised Turnpike tolls 40% and Parkway tolls 43%.

According to the Turnpike Authority Board of Commissioners, the revenue generated from the raised rates will not be used to pay operating costs, but will be used to fund the Turnpike Authority’s $7 billion capital program and other transportation projects. The ten-year, $7 billion capital program enables “the Turnpike widening between Interchanges 6 and 9, the Parkway widening south of Toms River and dozens of other projects that will relieve congestion, restore bridges, improve interchanges, expand the use of intelligent transportation systems and increase safety on both roadways,” said a Turnpike Authority newsletter. Further, portions of the capital program are slated to replace New Jersey State Police stations in Moorestown, Bloomfield, Galloway and Newark. Approximately $1.25 billion was to be used to build a transit tunnel beneath the Hudson River to Manhattan, but the project was cancelled by Governor Chris Christie, as he foresaw cost overruns.

Steve Carrellas, New Jersey representative of the National Motorists Association, questioned whether the toll hikes would change driver habits. He doubts motorists will be too upset, as the money will pay for improvements on roads they use almost daily. On the other hand, New Jersey Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel sees the increases as nothing but a “hidden tax.” Tittel told the Star-Ledger, “At a time when people are hurting financially, this is a hidden tax that will not benefit the average commuter. People are going to be paying more to sit in traffic longer since none of this money from the toll increases will be going to projects that will alleviate the commute for New Jersey commuters.”

Rutgers University conducted a study in 2009 for the New Jersey Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration. Rutgers found that the Turnpike Authority’s $7 billion program will generate or maintain about 700,000 jobs. For every $1 million spent on transportation infrastructure projects in New Jersey, ten jobs will be sustained for a year.

The Turnpike Authority said that even with the toll increases, at 4.8 cents per mile, the GSP will still continue to be among the lowest-priced toll roads in the country. The NJ Turnpike, at 11.4 cents per mile, “will remain less expensive than similar urban toll roads such as the Miami-Dade Expressway and the Massachusetts Turnpike, both of which cost around 20 cents per mile, and the Delaware Turnpike (I-95), which costs about 35 cents per mile.”

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