• And no, New Jersey's speed limit was not raised to 80 M.P.H.

Things are constantly changing on New Jersey's roadways. Doesn't matter where you turn, there's always something new going on.

The New Jersey Turnpike is one great example. Think of the last time you drove on that freeway (err, not free) and didn't see any road work going on.

It's a constant project of new overpasses, upgraded rest areas, and shifting lanes. In fact, there most likely will never be a single year that you don't see some sort of construction happening on that non-free freeway.

And what helps pay for all of that? Our lovely tolls, of course. Those tolls are necessary to help keep all those projects moving (or so they say).

Without them, none of that work would get done. That's just the nature of The New Jersey Turnpike. And by extension, it's also the nature of the Garden State Parkway.

Garden State Parkway northbound on-ramp
Townsquare Media Photo
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Two Highways, very fast

Not just very fast when it comes to speed (we all know everyone does at least 80 M.P.H at any given moment), but very fast when it comes to the sheer number of construction projects.

Although to be fair, the Garden State Parkway often doesn't seem to see as many projects getting done at one time as the Turnpike does. But nevertheless, there's always something.

Just look at the Jon Bon Jovi rest area. It doesn't feel all that long ago when the rebranding from the Cheesequake name took place, but here we are with the rest stop being redone yet again.

So it's not just the speed vehicles drive, it's also the speed of the projects that get added to the list. And although the work may seem slow at times, there's always a guarantee that we'll be moving fast to add more projects in the coming months.

Road construction sign.
ThinkStock
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Fast projects, fast hikes

When it comes to all those planned projects, money is necessary to fund them. Now yes, that seems like a no-brainer, but who do you think pays for all of this?

Well in part, you do. At least when it comes to those tolls you pay. Not just on the Turnpike, but on the Garden State Parkway as well.

Projects, along with general maintenance, are all under the umbrella that our toll money helps support. Unfortunately, the costs of everything continue to go up as we head more toward the future.

Garden State Parkway toll plaza with E-ZPass lanes
Mike Brant - TSM
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Say hello to 80

With that said, have you noticed the new minimum on the Garden State Parkway this year? No, it's not speed (although some people might love to see that).

Remember the most recent toll hikes that took effect? Prior to that, the absolute lowest toll you would pay for the on-ramps and off-ramps was 75 cents.

Now that the latest hike for 2024 is officially in place, the new minimum toll on the parkway is now 80 cents. And that is why 80 is the new minimum on the Garden State Parkway.

In other words, with the exception of the few free zones that still exist, expect to pay a minimum of 80 cents to use the roadway.

sign for an 80 cents toll on the Garden State Parkway
Mike Brant - TSM
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4 years to a dollar?

The fare hike that got the minimum 75-cent toll to 80 cents happened in an instant. With that said, how much longer will it be before the smallest toll amount on the GSP is $1.00?

Probably at the earliest, four years. Now that's just my opinion since we won't know for sure until the time comes.

Think of it this way. Let's say a similar toll hike happens every year over the next four years. And let's say every time it goes up, the minimum toll amount goes up by another nickel.

At that rate, it'll only be four more years before the smallest toll amount officially makes it to a dollar. It might not seem like much, but it really adds up over time.

Belmar-Wall toll plaza on the Garden State Parkway
Mike Brant - TSM
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A promise not made

Remember, we don't really know what kind of toll hikes are on the horizon. That means the minimal toll amount of 80 cents might last longer than we expect.

Tolls exceeding the $1.00 minimum will probably happen someday, but it might not in four years. That's only assuming the same fare hike hits four years in a row, which it may not.

But one thing's for sure. That promise of the tolls going away will probably never happen. In fact, we'd be foolish to think it ever would.

Garden State Parkway toll plaza lane with a 15 M.P.H E-ZPass speed limit
Mike Brant - TSM
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Always paying off

Think about it this way. How can we ever pay off the parkway if we have constant projects going on that need funding?

If that day ever comes when funding isn't needed, then perhaps tolls might vanish. But let's be real, that day will never come.

At the moment, our new minimum is 80 on the GSP. Enjoy it while it lasts before the next hike comes that inches us ever so closer to a dollar fare minimum.

Garden State Parkway sign with toll / money images
Omar Williams, Sabrina Kontos, Parkway sign (Canva edit)
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DID YOU KNOW?

NJ DOT's 2024 collection of humorous safety messages

The NJ DOT continued to use a series of humorous seasonal safety messages on its' over 200 electronic signs around New Jersey.

Gallery Credit: Dan Alexander

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The above post reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 Sunday morning host Mike Brant. Any opinions expressed are his own.

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