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Last fall, when every member of the Legislature was up for re-election, Gov. Phil Murphy vetoed the proposed New Jersey Turnpike Authority budget that included a 3% toll increase on the turnpike and the parkway.
Murphy said he needed more information on why the toll hike was necessary.
But yesterday, less than three months after the election, the Turnpike Authority took another vote and passed the same $2.6 billion budget again, which included the same toll increase. This time Murphy immediately approved the rate hike without explaining why.
It’s the third toll hike on the turnpike and the parkway in four years.
According to N.J. Turnpike Authority spokesman Tom Feeney, the toll increase is scheduled to take effect March 1.
For the average passenger car, this translates to a 15 cent increase on turnpike tolls and a 5 cent bump on parkway tolls.
A trip from Camden (Interchange 4) to Trenton (7A) will increase by 8 cents to $2.47.
Feeney said the rate at toll plazas on the mainline of the Garden State Parkway will increase by 7 cents (to $2.09), and the rate at most of the plazas on Garden State Parkway ramps will increase by 3 cents (to 73 cents). Passenger cars pay a lower E-Z Pass rate during the off-peak travel periods on the turnpike and the parkway. Peak periods are from 7 to 9 a.m. and 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and all day Saturday and Sunday.
“It’s politics as usual as played here in New Jersey or anywhere else, incumbents and incumbent governors don’t like to vote for or approve toll increases or tax increases right before an election,” said Ben Dworkin, director of the Rowan University Institute for Public Policy and Citizenship.
He said while Governor Murphy was not up for re-election in November, members of his party were.
“Clearly there was a political advantage to not approving the 3% toll hike just before Election Day,” he said.
Bailey Lawrence, a spokesperson for the governor, said the increased fees allows the Turnpike Authority to maintain the state’s highways and mass transit.
“We are continuing to prioritize the safety and mobility of all New Jersey residents and commuters,” he said.
Steve Carrellas, the state policy director for the National Motorists Association calls the current situation “frustrating”.
“The governor is not telling us why,” he said. “They’re not saying anything, now that he’s supporting a toll hike we want to know why he’s changed his mind.”
Carrellas said the Turnpike Authority uses a toll index system which allows toll hikes of up to 3% annually, but they have never explained exactly what formula is used to make their decision.
“I call it the blank check index,” he said.
Republican state Senate Minority Leader Tony Bucco said toll increases will be the latest broken promise by Governor Murphy and Trenton Democrats.
“From talks of reinstating the corporate business tax surcharge and increasing the sales tax, to NJ Transit fare increases, and now toll increases — Democrats continue to talk about affordability to entice hardworking New Jerseyans for their vote and then stick them with the bill for their failing policies and budget mismanagement,” he said.
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