New Jersey could solicit privatized state routes

| 11/22/2006

New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine is looking for ways to lower the state's property tax rates, which are the highest in the U.S.

One way the state could raise money, officials say, is through the sale or lease of several busy highways - a growing list that now includes state routes 78, 80 and 95.

Corzine's administration has begun soliciting proposals from transportation consultants about the possibility of tolling Routes 80, 78 and 95, Pulaski Skyway and Route 440, in addition to the already publicized New Jersey Turnpike and the Garden State Expressway.

The solicited studies are supposed to address the impact proposed tolled highways could have on regional secondary roads.

New Jersey officials say they are not entirely convinced that privatization is the way to go, but that the theory is worth studying, according to a report by The Associated Press.

Meanwhile, the New Jersey Department of Transportation has proposed limiting heavy truck traffic from secondary roads, with some exceptions.

A similar push to eliminate big trucks from roads off the interstate network was shot down in 1999 for being unconstitutional.

The state DOT has proposed restrictions on trucks between 96 and 102 inches wide and those pulling double trailers. If adopted, out-of-state trucks would have to stay on interstates or major highways except when making deliveries or pick-ups, or when the driver is looking for food, fuel, repairs, or a place to rest.

But, unlike the old rules - which were thrown out by the courts - the new rules would also allow a trucker to use connector routes if they provided the most direct route to a destination.

Gail Toth, executive director of the New Jersey Motor Truck Association, told "Land Line Now" on XM Satellite Radio that she helped draft the proposed rules.

"What they've actually done is given us more roads than were available in the past," Toth said. "They've created a hierarchy of roads. All trucks will at least start out on interstates, if at all possible, and then if they need to go via a direct route to the next location - even if it's another interstate - they can make that access."

Toth said the proposed rules will be posted Dec. 18 on the state's register, followed by a 60-day public comment period.

- By David Tanner and Reed Black, staff writers