States looking to new tolls to pay for highways

WALL TOWNSHIP - Driving onto an Interstate highway? Crossing a bridge on the way into work? Taking a tunnel under a river or bay? Get ready to pay.

With Congress unwilling to contemplate an increase in the federal gas tax, motorists are likely to be paying ever more tolls as the government searches for ways to repair and expand the nation's congested highways.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), has introduced a bill to give the secretary of transportation oversight of tolling practices. The financing commission made a similar recommendation.

A report by the New Jersey comptroller in March said cronyism and mismanagement at the Delaware River Port Authority had wasted millions of dollars. The authority operates four bridges, a ferry and a rail line across the Delaware River between New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey recently raised cash fares on six Interstate bridges and tunnels to $12 for cars. By 2015, it will cost a five-axle truck paying cash $105 to cross between New York and New Jersey, three times as much as for any other bridge or tunnel in the country, according to the American Trucking Association. Bill Baroni, the authority's deputy executive director, told a Senate hearing the fare hikes are necessary to make up for years of neglect and mismanagement.

AP wire services contributed to this report.

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