New Jersey bill would raise money along highways

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Wednesday, February 19, 2014

An effort in New Jersey has been restarted to search for ways to use the state’s major highways to raise new revenue without raising taxes.

The Assembly Transportation and Independent Authorities Committee voted unanimously to advance a bill that would direct the Turnpike Authority and the South Jersey Transportation Authority to study and report on additional opportunities to make money along the state’s three toll highways by providing new and better services at rest areas and welcome centers. Services could include business, commercial or retail along the New Jersey Turnpike, Garden State Parkway and Atlantic City Expressway.

The bill’s next stop is the Assembly floor.

Assemblyman Craig Coughlin, D-Middlesex, said the new revenue stream is needed to help lawmakers look for creative ways to boost revenue.

“Our current transportation infrastructure demands that we think outside the box to find new revenue sources to help meet our long-term needs,” Coughlin stated.

Gov. Chris Christie issued a conditional veto last fall on the bill. The conditional veto gave lawmakers recommendations for changes that needed to be made to the bill to satisfy the governor.

“I recommend various amendments to the bill so that the Authority has the discretion to examine the full range of potential benefits from additional private sector services, including lower costs and improvements in the quality of services,” Christie wrote at the time.

A801 would give the toll roads 12 months to submit their reports to state lawmakers and the governor.

New Jersey is not alone in pursuing deals on rest area sponsorships. A year ago, lawmakers in New Hampshire and Louisiana gave the go-ahead to look further at sponsorship opportunities.

A Louisiana law allows sponsorship on state-owned assets, including the state’s nine rest areas. The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development has the authority to charge fees for sponsorship signs on state-owned property.

In New Hampshire, the state can pursue selling sponsorships or naming rights to the 16-state-owned rest areas.

“Finding new revenue sources without raising taxes is crucial, particularly in an economy like this,” stated New Jersey Assemblyman John Wisniewski, D-Middlesex.

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