Toll discounts sought in New Jersey

| 10/17/2006

With less than three months remaining until the end of the regular session, state lawmakers in New Jersey could still discuss a handful of efforts related to toll rates.

The legislation would give drivers on the New Jersey Turnpike and toll roads in the state a break on prices in certain circumstances.

One bill would require the Turnpike Authority to reduce toll rates for commercial trucks.

Sponsored by Assemblyman Bill Baroni, R-Hamilton, 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 separate 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, including 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.

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

Sponsored by Assemblyman Jeff Van Drew, D-Vineland, 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, 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.

The Legislature is scheduled to adjourn in January 2007. Any bill that doesn't gain approval prior to the end of the session can be brought back for consideration next year.