Turnpike Authority discusses privitazation of toll collection; employees protest potential loss of wages
WOODBRIDGE - The discussion of a proposal to privatize toll collections on the New Jersey Turnpike was met with protest Tuesday from workers who fear for their jobs.
Patricia Kerchner came to the Turnpike Authority's office in Woodbridge, to fight for her position, collecting tolls at Interchange 11 on the Turnpike.
"At least I could look at myself in the mirror and say I tried," she says. "It's upsetting because I love my job and you get to see the same people a lot of the time."
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The Turnpike Authority is looking into privatizing toll collections in an effort to cut costs.
Union leaders say if any of the state's 330 toll takers on the Parkway and Turnpike are kept under new management, compensation will surely change.
NJ Turnpike Authority Chairman James Simpson made it clear that manned collections will go away entirely as soon as the technology allows it.
"At some point, it will be zero, as soon as we get to open road tolling, which is the next thing," he says. But he says he wants to give those employees opportunities to hold other jobs within the organization.
The Turnpike Authority says electronic toll collecting costs 19 cents a transaction. Using a toll collector costs 66 cents.
Several years ago, that cost was even higher, and toll collectors agreed to millions of dollars in salary and benefit cuts.
Turning over toll collections to a private company is part of a larger partnership. New Jersey's electronic tolls must be compatible with systems nationwide by 2016.