Corzine Approves Toll Increase

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STATE – Gov. Jon Corzine approved the latest plan to raise tolls on the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway, which will fund a host of transportation projects, last week.

The revised plan will raise tolls Parkway tolls from 35 to 50 cents in December, with another 25 cent increase planned for 2012. The average 23-mile trip on the Turnpike will increase in cost from $1.20 to $1.70 in December, and rise to $2.60 in 2012.

The latest plan scraps a third round of increases, which would have taken effect in 2023, that had been included in the previous proposal. It also includes discounts. Drivers using E-ZPass during off-peak hours will keep the current 25 percent discount they now receive. E-ZPass drivers who are over 65 will get a new 10 percent discount during off-peak hours. Truckers will get a new 5 percent discount for using E-ZPass during off-peak hours, and drivers of fuel-efficient vehicles will get an extra 10 percent discount.

The discounts are expected to cost the Turnpike Authority $12.8 million per year and will be paid for by reducing the authority’s $481 million operating budget, officials said. An immediate staffing reduction is proposed, cutting 30 positions, while another 200 jobs will be phased out over the next four years.

The toll increases will fund a reduced array of transportation projects, including the state’s $1.25 billion contribution to a planned rail tunnel under the Hudson River, as well as widening portions of the Turnpike and the Parkway.

Critics argue that even the scaled-back proposal will harm motorists already struggling with worsening economic conditions.

The last Turnpike toll increase came in 2000; the last Parkway toll increase was in 1989.

Last year, the governor and state Sen. Ray Lesniak (D-Elizabeth) proposed an asset monetization scheme that would have raised tolls 800 percent over 14 years to pay down the state’s debt. The plan failed to gain popular or political support.


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