More tolls for NJ drivers? It could happen under Trump’s budget
New Jersey drivers already pay more tolls than motorists anywhere in the country.
Under President Donald Trump's proposed budget, Garden State drivers could pay even more.
The administration this week revealed a transportation funding plan that would lift tolling restrictions on federal interstate highways. Federal officials believe that allowing tolls would encourage private investment in transportation infrastructure.
"The Administration also supports allowing the private sector to construct, operate, and maintain interstate rest areas, which are often overburden and inadequately maintained," the White House said in a factsheet.
Although the proposal doesn't suggest any particular roads for new tolls, lifting the restriction could mean toll plazas someday on Routes 78, 80, 287, 195 and 295.
Trump's proposal is not a done deal. In fact, it's unlikely much of it will be accepted by Congress that's controlled by the president's own party.
But the proposed cuts have fueled outrage and fears.
U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., who has criticized many aspects of Trump's proposed spending plan, said this week that the proposal "shortchanges New Jersey big time and I intend to fight it with everything I have."
"New Jerseyans already pay high tolls on the Turnpike and Parkway and our river crossings. We've had to swallow a gas tax hike to replenish our Transportation Trust Fund. That last thing we need or can afford is more tolls," he said during a news conference Friday.
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A 2015 study found that more tolls are collected on the Garden State Parkway and the New Jersey Turnpike than by any other tolling agency in the country — amounting to 11 percent of the tolls collected nationally.
Including the tolls also collected by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the MTA, drivers in New York and New Jersey pay a third of all U.S. tolls.
Last year, the Turnpike Authority took in $1.57 billion in tolls.
Trump's transportation budget would spend $200 billion over 10 years and hope that would generate $800 billion in private investment.
The proposed budget eliminates the funding for building new Hudson River tunnels, which transportation officials in New York and New Jersey say are desperately needed to alleviate congested rail traffic.
Menendez said NJ Transit rail commuters are bracing for "the summer from hell" as Amtrak repairs its aging rails at New York Penn Station following a series of derailments and multi-day delays this year.
"The heart of the Northeast Corridor, an area that produced a fifth of the nation's gross domestic product — $3.7 trillion — and President Trump's budget writes off Gateway as a parochial project," Menendez said.
Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5.
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