2012-01-26 / Letters

N.J. toll road drivers are taking an unfair hit with increase

New Jersey Turnpike Authority Commissioner Michael DuPont’s justification of a 50 percent toll increase is an example of the arrogance and disdain displayed against drivers on toll roads by the toll authority, but this is not surprising.

After all, when former governor Jon Corzine proposed an 800 percent toll increase in 2008, its replacement with a mere 43 percent increase later that year may have been viewed by some as a welcome relief.

But during the first full year of the 43 percent increase, the authority saw a $200 million surplus which went into other state operations. And with the public conditioned to large (but significantly below 800 percent) toll increases, a 50 percent toll increase seems like a good way to pump another $500 million into the state treasury.

But how much is too much? A 10-cent per gallon increase in the gasoline tax would have resulted in about the same amount of additional revenue and it would be spread among all drivers and be presumably spent on much needed toll-free road repair. Yet it would only cost the average driver an additional fraction of a cent per mile extra.

By comparison, the toll increase will cost the equivalent of 65 cents per gallon of gasoline, or 1.6 to 3.8 additional per mile; but only for drivers on toll roads. That’s four to nine times as much. How unfair is that?

Commissioner DuPont’s justification that the toll increase is needed to cover a $7 billion 10-year capital improvement program is nonsense.

During this same 10-year period about $16 billion will be raised on road tolls (at current toll levels). But it costs far less than $900 million a year for toll collection and non-capital maintenance costs. The question that should be asked is why 24 states are able to run effective road programs without tolls, while 26 states feel that they also need tolls.

Bob Ahlers

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