TRENTON, NJ--The toll increases for the NJ Turnpike and Garden State Parkway go into effect on Sunday, September 13, 2020. Tolls will increase by 36% on the NJ Turnpike, with an average trip increasing from $3.50 to $4.80.
Tolls on the Garden State Parkway will increase by 27%, increasing an average trip of $1.11 to $1.41.
The money from the toll hike will go toward various projects, including the NJ Turnpike and Garden State Parkway expansion plan approved in May.
“One of the biggest toll hikes in history are going to hit drivers on Sunday. This is over a 30% average hike between the Parkway and the Turnpike. This isn’t being done to get people to work, these toll hikes will fund projects that are completely unnecessary. People in New Jersey will be paying more money to be stuck in traffic longer. The expansion plans will cost $16 billion and will pave over environmentally sensitive areas and bulldoze Environmental Justice communities. This goes against everything that Murphy has said on reducing greenhouse gases and protecting EJ/overburdened communities,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “It is shameful that the NJ Turnpike Authority rushed through these major highway widening plans. They didn’t have public scrutiny or an EIS. This is outrageous because these projects will negatively impact NJ for decades to come.”
During the coronavirus pandemic, the NJ Turnpike and Garden State Parkway have seen a decrease in traffic and toll revenue. According to the NJ Turnpike Authority, traffic on the Turnpike was down 30% through June and traffic on the Parkway was down 26%. Revenue for both highways dropped by 27%. New Jersey is also raising the gas tax by 9.3 cents on October 1, bringing the gas tax total to 50.7.
“Traffic on the NJ Turnpike and GS Parkway has dropped since the start of the pandemic, yet they are still moving forward with their damaging highway widening plans. Revenue from tolls is already down 30% and will probably drop more. It doesn’t make sense for them to be wasting $16 billion on unnecessary highway widening projects. With revenue down, they may also raise tolls even higher to pay for these projects,” said Tittel. “Drivers are getting a double hit because the 9 cent increase in the gas tax is coming. Instead of raising the gas tax, the state could use this toll increase to go toward the Transportation Trust Fund instead of widening highways. Using that money to replenish the TTF for mass transit and Fix-It-First would mean that they wouldn’t have to raise the gas tax.”
A more responsible way for these agencies to reduce traffic and protect our air quality would be to look at expanding mass transit. It is a better option that will promote a greener future that is more walkable and breathable.
“Instead of spending billions of dollars for widening, we should invest it in mass transit. Investing in mass transit will reduce traffic, air pollution, and create more jobs for our economy. Instead of widening the NJ Turnpike in the Meadowlands, we can expand the Bergen Light Rail into Bergen County. Instead of widening the Garden State Parkway, we can finally build the Monmouth-Ocean-Middlesex line. Instead of widening the NJ Turnpike in South Jersey, we can build the South Jersey Light Rail System,” said Jeff Tittel. “NJ Transit recently came out with a capital plan that they don’t have the money for. The money from these highway widenings would be better spent helping NJ Transit implement their capital plan.”
The NJ Turnpike Authority’s $24 billion capital plan includes 15 highway widening or bridge replacement projects, totaling at least $16 billion. The final costs will be much higher due to budget adjustments and cost overruns. Governor Murphy believes this project has provided New Jersey residents with extraordinary opportunities for good-paying construction and building jobs, as well as opportunities for New Jersey’s business owners.
“This is the wrong toll hike at the wrong time for the wrong projects. If you build it, they will come. This money will go toward increasing sprawl and development in rural areas, disrupting Environmental Justice communities, and more greenhouse gas emissions. This money should be going toward smart transportation planning like reverse and flexible lanes and better traffic management. These highway widening projects will determine our land use and greenhouse gas use in the state for decades to come,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “This is a time of financial uncertainty. Families in New Jersey are already having a hard time making ends meet. Raising tolls for an unneeded project that wastes money and hurts the environment makes absolutely no sense.”