Acting Gov. Richard Codey unveiled a plan Wednesday, Dec. 1,
to widen a 20-mile stretch of the New Jersey Turnpike. The project reportedly
could cost more than $1 billion.
Trucking industry officials and others said the proposal,
coming at a time when the state faces budget deficits and is unable to get
federal funding for toll roads, was likely to require increases in toll rates
and possibly an increase in the state fuel tax.
Plans call for widening the road from Interchange 8A in
Middlesex County to Interchange 6 in Burlington County in the central and
southern parts of the state.
Codey announced the expansion plans at his morning address
at the State of the Region meeting in Cherry Hill.
Officials had not yet determined whether the highway would
be expanded to four lanes or five, from the existing three lanes in each
direction, The Associated Press reported.
Traffic congestion is common at Exit 8A, where the Turnpike
shrinks southbound from five lanes to three in a merger of truck and passenger
vehicle lanes and expands northbound.
News of the expansion plan was greeted receptively, though
with some caution, by trucking industry officials and representatives of
drivers’ groups in the state.
Gail Toth, executive director of the New Jersey Motor Truck
Association, said the news was “a welcome surprise” to an industry that had
watched various other proposals to ease congestion fail amid budgetary and
She said that by a conservative count, 147 warehouses and
distribution centers have sprouted around Exit 8A in recent years and that some
employed as many as a few hundred people. Because there is little or no public
transportation in that part of the state, she said, most of those workers must
drive to work.
At the same time, residential development is also booming in
the area. “And all you have is the little old turnpike going through there,” Toth said.
Steve Carrellas, New Jersey coordinator of the National
Motorists Association, said his group generally favored “the idea of increased
capacity when there is a need” but was concerned about higher tolls being
attached to the expansion.
“You can only guess that size of program is going to require
a toll hike,” he said. “We just don’t know the extent of it yet.”
A Codey administration spokesman, speaking on condition of
anonymity to The AP, maintained that no toll or fuel tax increase is
An 18-month, $10 million study is being conducted to
determine project costs and the number of lanes to be built.
Officials think the widening project would help keep traffic
moving, especially after 2011, when Pennsylvania is scheduled to complete a
link between its turnpike and Interstate 95 in nearby Bucks County. That
project is expected to funnel thousands more cars and trucks onto the New
Jersey Turnpike at Interchange 6, which connects to the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
gridlock down there is just unbelievable,” said Toth. “This is really exciting
news. I know it’s not going to happen tomorrow. But hopefully it won’t take 20
– By Keith Goble, staff writer