New Jersey official says 25-cent per axle toll cut likely on bridges

| Thursday, August 28, 2003

Truck tolls may decrease by as much as 25 cents per axle on bridges over the Delaware River under a plan being floated in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, The Trenton Times reported Aug. 27.

The Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission increased the tolls last November on seven bridges it maintains between the two states. The tolls support maintenance on the total 20 bridges over the river operated by the commission. In some cases, tolls will increase 300 percent. On five of the bridges, The Intelligencer reported, five-axle truck tolls went from $4 to $11.25.

Media outlets reported Aug. 25 that Gov. James McGreevey of New Jersey and Gov. Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania were working out the details of a deal that would reduce the tolls.

Quoting an aide for New Jersey Assemblyman Guy Gregg, R-Washington Township, The Times reported that the governors’ talks were working toward a cut of 75 cents for cars and the 25-cent per axle figure for trucks.

However, Kristi Petrides, Gregg’s aide, told the newspaper the 25-cent reduction was not enough. The figure would only cut $1.25 out of the $7.25 increase many trucks are paying.

The tolls became the subject of controversy earlier this year when local media sources revealed that the increases would pay for things besides bridge work.

The bridge commission said the new rates were needed to help fund a 10-year, $526 million capital improvement plan for economic development. However, The Trentonian reported in early March that a portion of the toll hikes would pay 45 percent raises to the top three executives of the bridge commission. Frank G. McCartney, executive director of the commission, defended the pay hikes, telling the newspaper the raises were designed to “retain talent” to help with the commission’s plan to rehabilitate its bridges.

In addition, The Allentown Morning Call reported earlier this year the commission intended to use about $250 million from the increases for unauthorized projects, including economic development such as projects on waterfront property and airport work.

Rendell’s proposal would give most of the $250 million back to toll payers, including truckers. He would like to keep $30 million of that for bridge work. McGreevey, however, would like to keep $100 million of the $250 million.

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