Corzine Gets His Wish – Motorists Pay Higher Tolls

spending-moneySTATE—New Jersey motorists will pay more to travel along the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway as toll increases long sought by Gov. Jon Corzine have finally taken effect.

The cost of an average 22-mile Turnpike trip will go up to $1.70 from $1.25. One-way tolls on the Parkway will go to 50 cents from 35 cents.

The governor originally wanted to sell off the toll roads in a complicated scheme that would have brought in up to $40 billion in cash, created new state debt to fund transportation projects and paid off some older bond notes.

To do that, Corzine planned to increase tolls 50 percent in 2010, 2014, 2018 and 2022, and use the proceeds to guarantee profits for investors over 75 years.

Toll increases would increase every four years after 2022, to reflect inflation until 2085.

Sen. Raymond Lesniak, who originated Corzine’s toll scheme, said part of the 2022 increase could be eliminated by raising the state’s 14.5 cents per gallon gas tax by 10 cents now and five cents in 2013.

State taxpayers spent $887,000 dollars — for a study by British transportation consultants Steer Davies Gleave — to justify Corzine’s plan to increase tolls by more than 700 percent.

Public opposition derailed that plan before it was introduced in the Legislature.

Experts argued over whether some drivers would vote with their steering wheels by avoiding toll roads, at least for a little while.

“There are those who are so turned off by the cost of living in New Jersey, that will keep them off the (toll) road,” said David Weinstein, AAA MidAtlantic spokesperson. “You’ll see some clogged local roads, and some state roads will be bumper to bumper for a while.”

A spokesperson for the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, which operates the Turnpike and the Parkway disagrees.

“We’re not expecting a great deal of diversion and, if drivers were to divert, we expect they’ll come back for the convenience,” said authority spokesperson Joe Orlando.

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