Efforts in New Jersey and Utah seek to use their state’s major highways to raise new revenue without raising taxes.
The New Jersey Assembly voted 75-1 to advance a bill that would direct the Turnpike Authority and the South Jersey Transportation Authority to study and report on additional opportunities to make money along the state’s three toll highways by providing new and better services at rest areas and welcome centers. Services could include business, commercial or retail along the New Jersey Turnpike, Garden State Parkway and Atlantic City Expressway.
The bill, A801, has moved to the Senate Transportation Committee for further consideration.
Assemblyman Craig Coughlin, D-Middlesex, said the new revenue stream is needed to help lawmakers look for creative ways to boost revenue.
“Our current transportation infrastructure demands that we think outside the box to find new revenue sources to help meet our long-term needs,” Coughlin stated.
Gov. Chris Christie issued a conditional veto last fall on the bill. The conditional veto gave lawmakers recommendations for changes that needed to be made to the bill to satisfy the governor.
The revised bill includes analyses of best practices at rest areas and service plazas in neighboring states and also of whether the authority is maximizing revenues from billboards, cellphone towers and other advertising.
The toll roads would be given 12 months to submit their reports to state lawmakers and the governor.
“Finding new revenue sources without raising taxes is crucial, particularly in an economy like this,” stated New Jersey Assemblyman John Wisniewski, D-Middlesex.
Across the country in Utah, a new law authorizes the state Department of Transportation to make sponsorship signs available at rest stops to help defray costs related to highway related services.
Rep. John Knotwell, R-Herriman, said HB152 allows the state to stretch a limited transportation budget for maintenance without raising taxes.
HB152 also authorizes UDOT to sell banner ads for its online traffic application.
Utah and New Jersey are not alone in exploring rest stops and service plazas as a potential funding source.
In Louisiana, a 2013 law gave the state Department of Transportation and Development the authority to charge fees for sponsorship signs on state-owned property, including the state’s nine rest areas.
The DOTD’s Shawn Wilson said the rule change allows the state to take advantage of federal law that authorizes states to provide sponsorships at rest areas.
Wilson said rest areas would be “priced accordingly based on market assessment and what we see in other areas.” The revenue raised through sponsorships would stay with the rest areas.
Elsewhere, a year-old New Hampshire law authorizes the state to pursue selling sponsorships or naming rights to the 16-state-operated rest areas. A committee will also study closed facilities.