E-ZPass gets more complicated as discounts end

| Friday, July 26, 2002

The operators of New Jersey's Garden State Parkway endorsed a plan July 25 to end discounts for users of the E-ZPass system, AP reported. The New Jersey Highway Authority's commissioners voted 8-0 to end the discount, which reduces 35-cent tolls to 33 cents during peak hours and to 30 cents during off-peak times. A final vote will be taken in November after a public hearing Sept. 3.

Meanwhile, the combination of the discontinued discounts and a planned $1 monthly surcharge for E-ZPass users is prompting some drivers to consider surrendering their E-ZPass tags.

New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey said funding the system through fines was a mistake. This month, he proposed ending the parkway discount and instituting the surcharge in an effort to erase the system's $469 million debt over six years.

The surcharge could be imposed as soon as Jan. 1, said Micah Rasmussen, spokesman for the state transportation department.

The governor also fired the system's lead contractor, WorldCom Inc., and is negotiating with ACS Inc., the company that runs E-ZPass operations in several other states. The bankrupt WorldCom faces unrelated charges of accounting fraud brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

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