Dear NMA Members,
The New Jersey Turnpike Authority surprised the motoring public on March 7 when they announced public hearings on their proposed $24 billion capital plan and the toll rate adjustments necessary to fund it. The official notification was released to meet the minimum ten-day requirement between its release and the first hearing, held on March 18 with a 50-person gathering limit. And, there was no detailed information until the day before the hearing!
The NMA and its criticism was prominently featured in the linked news stories above that provide summary information along with links to more detailed information from the Authority. This alert will highlight the key information and then ask you to send comments about the toll hike and capital plan to the Authority to either their postal or email address by the extended date of April 3.
For passenger vehicles, the tolls would increase by $1.25 for the “average trip” on the NJ Turnpike (to $4.80), reflecting a 36 percent increase, and 30 cents on the Garden State Parkway (to $1.41), reflecting a 27 percent increase. The rate at a Parkway toll plaza increases 40 cents to $1.90, and the branch tolls rise 15 cents to 65 cents.
Driving a passenger car from end-to-end on the Turnpike would cost $18.85 for cash or E-ZPass and $14.15 for off-peak E-ZPass payment. The cash and peak-hour E-Z pass rate now for the same 117-mile trip are $13.85 and $10.40 for off-peak E-Z Pass.
The real bite on the Parkway comes in the price to drive a car on the Parkway from Bergen County to the endpoint in Cape May. It would cost $19.95 under the increase. The current cash and E-ZPass rate for the same 172-mile trip is $8.25. That represents a 142 percent increase.
Detailed toll rate schedules for the Turnpike and the Parkway and specific information about the Capital Plan the toll increases would fund are online. The $24 billion capital plan allots $7.87 billion to the Parkway, $11.91 billion to the Turnpike, and $4.36 billion for both, mostly for maintenance, improvements, and upgrades. Between both facilities, the $16 billion is allocated for widening over a 10 to 20 year period.
Future toll increases would be indexed to an indicator officials haven’t determined yet, starting in 2022, and would be limited to three percent annually. If the index becomes three percent annually, the average Turnpike toll doubles from today’s rates in 2034 while it doubles for the Parkway in 2036. By 2040, the Turnpike would see a 140 percent increase from 2019, while the Parkway would see a 123 percent increase.
It appears motorists are getting something for increased tolls with needed maintenance and targeted expansion, but will we be paying too much for what we actually get?
This time around, the potential price tag of $24 billion is staggering compared with the completed $7 billion plan from the last set of toll hikes from 2008-2012. And, most importantly, how will tolls actually rise in the next 10 years or more? Should we just assume three percent per year starting in 2022?
Unfortunately, this proposal gives the appearance of handing over a blank check for a wish list adored by those who will be paid to design, supply, manage, and build the projects. How can the motoring public be assured they are getting the value they are willing to pay for with the tolls? Has the Authority lost the public’s trust?
Comments and questions about the capital plan and the proposed changes to the toll schedule may be submitted by no later than April 3, 2020, by email to NJTAPublicComments@njta.com or sent by mail or courier to:
New Jersey Turnpike Authority
1 Turnpike Plaza
PO. Box 5042
Woodbridge, NJ, 07095
Thank you for your support of motorists’ rights and the National Motorists Association!