TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — New Jersey is still slowly reopening, but even in the middle of an economic disaster the state could be raising tolls for drivers.
Even amid a deadly pandemic that has ravaged the Garden State and killed more than 11,000 of its residents, state officials are looking to get more of your money. The New Jersey Turnpike Authority has approved new toll increases for the Turnpike and the Garden State Parkway, CBS2’s Nick Caloway reported Wednesday.
The group met remotely to discuss the increases, which would result in an average hike of 37% on the Turnpike and 26% on the Parkway.
Caloway asked drivers for their reaction.
“How can you raise it now? This is ridiculous. We go back and forth during the summer, and it’s costly enough as it is,” Dr. Lynn Singer said.
“Yeah, I don’t like the fact that they’re raising tolls when people are concerned about money,” Erica Goldman added.
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The timing is admittedly poor. The increases come as residents are focused on coronavirus and the economic collapse that came with it.
“Yeah, the timing is bad right now, because people are strapped. They’re hurting,” one Cliffwood Beach resident said.
And it’s not just an increase this year. The plan includes an annual hikes in tolls, with a 3% cap each year, starting in two years.
Caloway asked Gov. Phil Murphy about the plan at his daily coronavirus briefing in Trenton. He said the state needs the money for critical infrastructure improvements, like roads and bridges.
“There’s also the economic hardship on families, after more than a million people here have lost their jobs. So, why make those families pay more now?” he asked.
“We get what we’re going through. We live it every single day. We need a state a year from now, five years from now, 10 years from now,” Murphy answered. “It is what it is, but it’s also not kicking the can down the road. It is taking politics out of it, and it is investing in our future.”
The proposed toll hike is set to take effect Sept. 13.
By the way, the Turnpike Authority meeting Wednesday morning was held on a conference call. The public was invited to call in with input, but an actual in-person public hearing was not possible.