STATE – The start of 2012 ushered in higher tolls on the New Jersey Turnpike and the Garden State Parkway, but that’s just part of the bad news for local commuters.
According to NewJerseyGasPrices.com, average retail gasoline prices have risen 3.9 cents per gallon, with an average cost of $3.16 per gallon on New Year’s Day. That’s 20.3 cents per gallon more than on Jan. 1, 2011.
“Average gasoline prices are moving up as we enter the New Year, a trend that has held since 2008,” said GasBuddy.com Senior Petroleum Analyst Patrick DeHaan. “The biggest problem with that trend holding true this year is that we’re starting 2012 about 20-cents per gallon higher than 2011, breaking yet another high price record and setting up an ugly year for motorists,” DeHaan said.
The toll hikes were originally intended to cover the costs of a new rail tunnel under the Hudson River that would have increased commuter rail capacity between New Jersey and New York City, but Gov. Chris Christie scrapped that project in 2010.
U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) blasted state officials for allowing the toll increase to take effect. “It’s shameful that New Jersey commuters are paying more without getting more in return,” Lautenberg said. “The cancellation of the ARC tunnel should have meant no toll hike for commuters. The Governor was quick to cancel the badly needed tunnel, but flat out refused to cancel the associated toll increase.”
Mass transit users are also going to pay more in 2012. A federal tax benefit that allowed commuters to use $230 per month in pre-tax dollars for transit was allowed to expire on Dec. 31, reverting back to the original $125 per month. The increased benefit was part of the federal stimulus funding program in 2009.
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