Turnpike Authority presses on with plans for toll hikes, despite global pandemic

The New Jersey Turnpike Authority is pressing on with plans to raise the price of tolls, even holding a public meeting about the issue, despite the need for social distancing amid the pandemic.

News 12 Staff

Apr 1, 2020, 3:11 AM

Updated 1,566 days ago

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The New Jersey Turnpike Authority is pressing on with plans to raise the price of tolls, even holding a public meeting about the issue, despite the need for social distancing amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The plan would be to increase the tolls on highways like the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway. But one New Jersey lawmaker is calling foul.
“By saying we had them and we streamed them – give me a break. The goal really is to encourage people to participate,” says New Jersey state Sen. Declan O’Scanlon.
Tolls are set to go up 36% on the Turnpike and 27% on the Parkway. The money is slated to fund billions in transportation projects. But the cost details have not been coming forward very quickly, something O’Scanlon calls suspicious.
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“It did seem like they were trying to add it to an agenda at the last minute when they had introduced it back in late February,” the senator says.
A public meeting about the issue was held on March 18 – the same day that state officials announced more than 400 cases of coronavirus in New Jersey, along with five deaths. And after Gov. Phil Murphy implored people to stay at home.
Transportation Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti defended the meetings, saying that the revenue will be critical to a post-coronavirus economy.
“Public works projects sustain us in our recovery efforts and help to stimulate a lagging economy,” she says.
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But major advocacy groups have called out the process and say that the topic deserves more scrutiny. Some also feel that Murphy should intervene and delay the hikes until the fall.
“The governor hasn’t done it because his bandwidth, like everyone else, is completely focused on – oh, I don’t know, staying alive. Keeping his constituents alive. Keeping our economy alive,” O’Scanlon says.
Murphy tells News 12 New Jersey that he doesn’t know much about the public hearings.
“We’ve got to get that balance right between government going forward, life going forward and at the same time acknowledging we’re in a war,” Murphy said.
The last toll increase was about eight years ago. There is a similar effort in southern New Jersey to raise the tolls on the Atlantic City Expressway. There are three hearings to be held this week which will be streamed online.
News 12 reached out to the New Jersey Turnpike Authority for comment but did not hear back.


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