New Jersey Turnpike Authority proposes lower toll hikes

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The New Jersey Turnpike Authority has revised its recently proposed plan for toll increases following Gov. Jon Corzine’s request to lessen the burden on families in the state. In a letter to Corzine dated Tuesday, Oct. 7, Turnpike Authority Chairman Kris Kolluri wrote that the revised rates were drafted “in response to the current economic conditions as well as the public comments gathered at three public hearings and written comments.”

Kolluri says the proposal achieves Corzine’s goal of meeting the authority’s financial obligations and funding critical transportation needs, including a mass transit tunnel between New Jersey and New York. The authority intends to present the proposal to the public at an additional hearing on Friday, Oct. 10, at 9 a.m. ET at its Woodbridge headquarters, and submitting for consideration and approval by the authority commissioners at a special meeting.

Under the authority’s previously proposed toll plan, the average truck trip on the New Jersey Turnpike would have increased by $2.55 this year, $3.80 in 2012, and $1.15 by 2023. The toll for the average truck trip on the Garden State Parkway would have increased by 55 cents this year, 95 cents in 2012, and 30 cents by 2023.

Under the revised plan, the toll for the average truck trip on the New Jersey Turnpike would increase by $2.05 this year and $3.75 in 2012. The toll for the average truck trip on the Garden State Parkway would increase by 60 cents this year and 95 cents in 2012.

Kolluri also proposed an across-the-board 5 percent off-peak E-ZPass discount to all truck drivers using the Turnpike and Parkway. “Truck drivers are experiencing added financial pressures due to the high cost of diesel fuel,” Kolluri wrote. “Reducing truck drivers’ financial burden and encouraging them to travel during less congested travel times and to continue to use the Turnpike and Parkway, rather than local roads, are important objectives.”

The revised toll proposal funds a $7 billion 10-year capital plan and makes a $1.25 billion contribution to the Transportation Trust Fund Authority for the mass transit tunnel. “The authority’s $1.25 billion contribution to the mass transit tunnel project is essential to relieving congestion on the Turnpike,” Kolluri wrote. “Investing in the mass transit tunnel will benefit the authority by preserving capacity on the western spur and eastern spur of the Turnpike. Preserving that capacity will obviate the need to expand the western spur, which would require an additional expenditure of no less than $3.5 billion. For a third of the cost, the authority will achieve the same or greater transportation and congestion relief benefits, and it will do so in a more environmentally friendly manner.”