Toll discounts draw consideration in New Jersey

| 1/24/2006

New Jersey lawmakers have been giving toll rates a lot of attention in the days since the 2006 session opened.

Four bills introduced in the Assembly would give drivers on the New Jersey Turnpike and toll roads in the state a break on prices in certain circumstances.

Sponsored by Assemblyman Bill Baroni, R-Hamilton, a bill would require the Turnpike Authority to reduce toll rates for commercial trucks. The bill – A688 – is intended to encourage truck drivers to use the toll way instead of local routes, such as U.S. 1, 206 and 31.

Baroni wrote “the increased use of local highways by commercial trucks creates hazardous driving conditions for motorists and increases the wear and tear” on highways that “were not designed for the present volume of commercial trucks.”

Assemblyman John Rooney, R-Emerson, has offered a bill that would require toll-free passage on state toll roads and certain interstates on federal holidays.

The bill – A1105 – would prohibit the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the Delaware River Port Authority from imposing tolls on federal holidays, such as New Year’s Day, July Fourth, Labor Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.

Rooney wrote that “substantial traffic delays occur on heavily traveled holidays in part because motorists must wait to pay tolls. This bill would provide toll-free passage on these holidays in order to relieve traffic congestion.”

Loss of toll revenue on these holidays would be offset by lower labor costs, he said.

New York and Pennsylvania would be required to adopt similar rules for the affected routes that run in their states.

A separate bill would limit the direction in which tolls could be collected at certain toll plazas.

Sponsored by Assemblyman Jeff Van Drew, D-Millville, the measure – A1058 – would require the Turnpike Authority to collect tolls only in the southbound direction at the Great Egg and Cape May barrier toll plazas on the Garden State Parkway. Toll booths in the northbound direction would be removed.

Van Drew wrote that “by requiring the authority to discontinue northbound toll collections at those plazas in favor of southbound collections, emergency evacuations from the Shore area in the northbound direction will be facilitated.”

Assemblymen Peter Biondi, R-Somerville, and Joseph Malone, R-Bordentown City, also are offering legislation that would aid some turnpike users.

Their bill – A1318 – would prohibit the Turnpike Authority from discontinuing peak-period discounts for E-ZPass users.

The lawmakers wrote that “the effect of taking away the discount will be a toll increase for E-ZPass users and the removal of an incentive to use E-ZPass during peak periods of traffic congestion.”

All four bills are in the Assembly Transportation and Public Works Committee.

-- Keith Goble, state legislative editor