New Jersey drivers can expect to pay more on the state’s toll roads.
The New Jersey Turnpike Authority voted 7-0 Wednesday morning to increase tolls starting September 13, 2020. Tolls will increase an average of $1.30 per passenger vehicle on the turnpike and raise the base toll on the Garden State Parkway to $1.90. The increase will fund $24 billion in construction costs over the next decade, including widening of the highways.
Construction will include highway widening in congested areas, bridge rehabilitation and the installation of electronic toll collections across the turnpike. The full plan is available on the New Jersey Turnpike Authority’s website.
The decision has sparked controversy since the hearings and vote took place in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Many called in to today’s hearing to voice their concerns about the timing of the vote as well as the environmental implications of the plan. Activists opposed to the increase have argued that the plan does not consider possible issues such as air pollution and public health, or that we don’t know how travel patterns will be different once more people are cleared to go back to work.
However, Gov. Phil Murphy said the construction plan is in line with his emission reduction goals. Specifically, he referenced the high amount of “cars idling” on the turnpike that would be reduced with expanded roadways. He also noted that New Jersey is the seventh state in electric car sales but the 49th state in electric car infrastructure, which the new construction will address with the addition of car charging stations at rest stops.
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The authority’s vote was conducted via phone due to current restrictions on gatherings of more than 50 people. Some public callers reported waiting in the queue for up to three hours to give their comments.
Murphy has 10 days to veto the toll hike, but Wednesday afternoon came out in favor of it for the first time.
“I said from the get-go we weren’t going to kick the can down the road as far as infrastructure. This is what it is.” Murphy said.
Tolls are also set to go up on the Atlantic City Expressway. The South Jersey Transportation Authority voted 6-1 Wednesday afternoon to increase tolls on the expressway beginning September 13.
Tolls will increase an average of $0.57 per trip. Construction on the expressway includes widening the highway, improving ramps and bridges, and resurfacing the road.
Some callers to the public portion of the hearing offered support for the increase, emphasizing that the construction would bring much-needed jobs to the region. However, other callers expressed concerns that the resolution was being rushed through.
Technological issues put a damper on the public response portion of the meeting, as some callers were still waiting in the queue as the board closed the public comment portion of the meeting. After the resolution had passed, those who were still waiting were able to offer their comments to the board.
Tolls were last increased on the Atlantic City Expressway in 2008.