New Jersey Assembly seeks revenue from rest areas, service plazas

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Wednesday, December 09, 2015

New Jersey is one step closer to possibly tapping major highways to raise new revenue without raising taxes.

The Assembly voted unanimously to advance an amended bill to direct the Turnpike Authority and the South Jersey Transportation Authority to study and prepare separate reports on additional opportunities to make money along the state’s three toll highways by providing new and better services at rest areas and service plazas.

Services could include business, commercial or retail along the New Jersey Turnpike, Garden State Parkway and Atlantic City Expressway.

“Every person who travels these highways is a potential customer,” Assemblyman Vincent Mazzeo, D-Atlantic, said in a news release.

The bill, A801, was previously approved by the Legislature with near unanimous consent but Gov. Chris Christie issued a conditional veto. The governor’s action requires lawmakers to make changes to the bill in order to help ensure passage.

Christie said in his veto message the state must strive to reduce the overall size and cost of government, and not just raise additional revenue.

“I am proposing changes ... to examine the full range of potential benefits from additional private sector services, and in particular, cost-lowering measures,” Christie wrote.

The agencies would be responsible for analyzing best practices at rest areas and service plazas in neighboring states and investigating whether the authority is maximizing revenues from billboards, cellphone towers, and other advertising.

The revised bill includes a provision to require the agencies to also find ways to lower costs.

The toll roads would be given 12 months to submit their reports to state lawmakers and the governor.

Assemblyman Craig Coughlin, D-Middlesex, said lawmakers must look for creative ways to increase revenue without burdening taxpayers.

“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.

The bill awaits Senate floor consideration before it can head back to the governor’s desk.

To view other legislative activities of interest for New Jersey, click here.

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