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Monday, September 8, 2008

Toll hikes emerge again

The specter of massive toll increases on the state’s major highways has reemerged, following this year's untimely death of Gov. Jon S. Corzine’s plan to hike tolls, issue bonds, and pay for transportation needs and pay off debt.

The New Jersey Turnpike Authority has issued a letter requesting Gov. Corzine’s approval to begin jacking up tolls on the New Jersey Turnpike and the Garden State Parkway in coming years, to pay for infrastructure repairs, existing debt, and a new tunnel into Manhattan.

The letter, issued last Thursday, was signed by the entire membership of the authority, a group that includes Department of Transportation Commissioner Kris Kolluri and five other middle-aged men. Didn't they used to say don't trust anyone over 30?

Republican legislators immediately assailed the plan, as they did last year and in early 2008 as the governor pushed for the creation of an independent entity that would use toll revenue - strengthened by 800 percent toll hikes - to pay off a massive bond issue earmarked for paying down state debt and unfunded transportation needs.

"Governor Corzine’s original monetization plan, calling for an 800 percent increase in tolls on our state roadways, was a miserable failure,” said Assemblywoman Mary Pat Angelini, R-Monmouth. “Our residents have been down this road before and are too intelligent to buy this new scheme.”

Reports in New Jersey newspapers had Gov. Corzine scheduled to meet with key state legislators last week, as the governor prepares to publicly unveil his second attempt at solving the state’s serious transportation funding issues.

It appears that instead of creating a new independent entity to tackle both transportation funding and state debt, Gov. Corzine has decided on a smaller plan. That plan appears to entail signing off on the Turnpike Authority’s request to raise tolls, which would then assist in solving the transportation funding problem.

Maybe addressing the state’s ridiculous debt will be kept for another day, or perhaps another governor.

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