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JCMAN320
November 15th, 2006, 11:01 PM
Turning free highways into fee highways
To bring in revenue, state treasurer looks at establishing tolls on some roads

Wednesday, November 15, 2006
BY TOM FEENEY
Star-Ledger Staff

In its continuing search for new ways to raise money, the Corzine administration is considering converting free highways into private toll roads.

The administration -- in the most preliminary way -- has asked for proposals to study the conversion of Routes 78, 80 and 95, the Pulaski Skyway and the section of Route 440 in Middlesex County between the New Jersey Turnpike and the Garden State Parkway into toll roads. This idea grew out of previous discussions about selling or leasing the state's toll roads.

During interviews yesterday, state Treasurer Bradley Abelow and Transportation Commissioner Kris Kolluri confirmed that they had advertised for an engineering consultant and a traffic and revenue consultant to help determine what those roads might be worth if they were sold or leased to a private company. They stressed that the move was part of a wide-ranging state effort to look at any possible way to raise revenue.

"I think it might have started when I asked Kris why we have tolls on some roads and not others," Abelow said. "What would be the value of having tolls on other roads? It's not necessarily something we want to do or intend to do, but at least let's understand what it means."

The state hired the financial services firm UBS in September to study its assets and suggest ways they might be "monetized" -- that is, sold or leased to raise cash. The request for qualifications that led to the hiring of UBS made no mention of the non-toll roads.

The contract with UBS calls for the firm to report to Abelow in mid-October. That report has yet to be made public.

Abelow's office issued separate requests for proposals for the two consulting positions Oct. 12. Interested firms had until Oct. 26 to respond. Abelow's spokesman, Tom Vincz -- who described the process as a study of "what's possible rather than what's probable" -- said the responses are still being evaluated and no one has been hired.

Once they're hired, the consultants will have 90 days to complete their work. Their studies will include the four non-toll roads as well as the Pulaski Skyway, the Turnpike, the Parkway and the Atlantic City Expressway. The last three already are toll roads.

The engineering consultant will study the condition of the roads, analyze how much it would cost to bring them into good repair, review the maintenance costs, offer an opinion on how long they might last and prepare a "transportation asset analysis," according to the request for qualifications issued by Abelow's office.

The traffic and revenue consultant will review and collect information on traffic volume, toll revenues and other data that might help the state determine the value of the roads, according to the second request for qualifications.

"It's entirely premature to say what the value of any of these roads might be," Kolluri said. "It's entirely premature to say that there is a value attached to any of those roads. That's going to take some time."

One issue the consultants will study is how adding tolls on a free highway might affect traffic volume on nearby roads, according to the document Abelow's office issued when it began its search for a consultant.

Federal transportation law allows states to set up tolls on interstate highways such as Routes 78, 80 and 95 with the approval of the Federal Highway Administration.

"It would be a bold undertaking to do this," said C. Kenneth Orski, editor and publisher of Innovation Briefs, an industry newsletter. "It would be a precedent -- and a bold precedent -- to take away existing general purpose lanes and convert them into toll lanes.

"Technically, it could be done, but it would be politically hazardous."

There are other models around the country of ways a private, for-profit concern might get involved in an existing non-toll highway, said Peter Samuel, publisher of Toll Roads Magazine, another trade publication.

For example, there are two interstate highways in Virginia where private companies have proposed building additional lanes in exchange for the right to charge tolls in those lanes. If those projects get built, the roads will have the same number of free lanes plus some toll lanes for drivers willing to pay a fee to escape congestion.

Those lanes, which have been done on public highways in Minnesota, Colorado, California and elsewhere, are usually known as H.O.T. lanes. Critics sometimes refer to them as "Lexus lanes" to suggest that they offer a remedy for congestion only for those with money.


Tom Feeney may be reached at tfeeney@starledger.com or (973) 392-1790.

Ninjahedge
November 16th, 2006, 09:20 AM
I say no.

Tolls have become a self sustaining entity in NJ. They only serve that road alone, and each municipality seeks to place their own little revenue generator in their town to try to stem their own shortfalling budgets.

I think the only way they should be able to do something like thi swould be to take the money and use it directly for mass transit upgrades and expansions. Devote some of the cash to the PATH expansion to Newark Airport, or additional lines/tracks being constructed in the Garden state.

Hell, more efficient QUIETER engines would also be worth spending money on. Anything to improve what is the main cause for all the conjestion. People wanting to get from point A to point B as quickly, cheaply, and most conveniently as possible.

daver
November 16th, 2006, 09:53 AM
"I think it might have started when I asked Kris why we have tolls on some roads and not others," Abelow said.
It takes a "special" kind of person to think that the answer to that question is to put tolls on all the roads. Sheesh.

Dagrecco82
November 16th, 2006, 10:25 AM
Traffic's bad enough on 78 and the Pulaski as it is.

Bob
November 16th, 2006, 09:35 PM
I say tax everything at 100%. Then, when the government needs MORE revenue, they can just force you to work harder. Comrades.

millertime83
November 22nd, 2006, 12:29 PM
you can't charge tolls on roads built with federal funds. . . I don't understand how they could ever do this.

tmg
November 22nd, 2006, 04:48 PM
^That's no longer strictly true.

millertime83
November 28th, 2006, 01:05 PM
yes, but it has to at least go to the transportation fund, and even doing that is only in very special cases. You can't use it for property tax reabtes.

JCMAN320
December 13th, 2006, 02:41 PM
Fence to protect trains near Pike

Wednesday, December 13, 2006
NEWHOUSE NEWS SERVICE

New Jersey will guard against a potential terrorist attack on chemical-filled freight trains by building a 10-foot fence and installing sensors and closed circuit monitors along a 2.6-mile stretch of the Turnpike between Linden and Newark.

The 90-ton tanker cars that are often stopped on the rails just off the northbound side of the New Jersey Turnpike represent a terror threat homeland security officials have worried about since bombings in recent years on commuter rails in Spain, England and India.

The cars - often in plain view of passing motorists - are used to carry chlorine, ammonia and other toxic substances that could wreak havoc over a large area if the tankers were ruptured in an attack.

An estimated $6 million will be spent by the New Jersey Turnpike Authority to erect the so-called privacy fence to shield the tankers from public view. The authority's board voted yesterday to let Executive Director Michael Lapolla award the contract once bids are opened next month.

Dagrecco82
December 13th, 2006, 03:35 PM
Good idea, but what are they going to do about those tankers that are still so easily accessible if you head to the industrial section of Elizabeth. They are the same tankers visible form the Turnpike. Being a resident, if you head to the industrial section of elizabeth, you can practically touch them, when you step out of your car.

Ninjahedge
December 13th, 2006, 03:54 PM
One thing I can say is, although I am glad they are deciding to do something about it, I am also disturbed that they HAVE TO ANNOUNCE IT TO EVERYONE BEFORE THEY DO IT!!!!

I mean, although we credit terrorists with all kinds of devious intelligence, we have to realize that they are still HUMAN, and sometimes HUMANS do not see what is put right in front of them.

SO why not make it easier and announce it before it is done? :P

z22
December 14th, 2006, 06:17 PM
...the New Jersey Turnpike Authority to erect the so-called privacy fence to shield the tankers from public view.

So, basically they don't plan to fix the problem, but rather want to hide that from the public. Without the "privacy" fence, if someone is fooling around with the tankers, hopefully they will call the police. It will be more easier for bad guys to do things when they complete the privacy fence, right? Maybe I'm missing something.

JCMAN320
December 21st, 2006, 03:01 AM
Measure to privatize Turnpike is due soon
Sponsor foresees $10B windfall for state

Wednesday, December 20, 2006
BY DUNSTAN McNICHOL
Star-Ledger Staff

Legislation seeking to raise about $10 billion by selling the New Jersey Turnpike and other major toll roads to private operators will be introduced early next year, Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union) said yesterday.

The Turnpike has been the centerpiece of an ongoing Treasury Department study of assets that can be sold or leased to private concerns to raise billions of dollars for the state.

Gov. Jon Corzine said his administration has made no final determination on whether selling the operating rights to the Turnpike would make fiscal sense. But he added such a deal is needed to provide long-term support for a $2 billion property tax rebate program Legislative leaders are promoting.

"It's not rocket science, it's how you are going to generate resources," said Corzine, who called the Turnpike deal "a central element of a program that will make property tax relief sustainable."

Lesniak said his bill to authorize the treasurer to solicit proposals for private management of the highways would allow the New Jersey Turnpike Authority to compete against private companies for the contract to run the state's toll roads. He said it would allow operators to increase tolls to keep pace with cost-of-living increases, and the operators would have to pay annual service fees for maintenance and public safety patrols.

"We think that it could raise a substantial amount of money, in the $10 billion neighborhood," Lesniak said.

However, a coalition of environmentalists, union leaders and public interest groups pointed to toll road sales in Indiana, Chicago and California as a warning, saying those deals included guarantees that the private operator could raise tolls each year, and also restricted governments from improving the roadways adjacent to the toll road -- because that could siphon traffic off the private highway.

Even small details -- such as whether the Turnpike will be salted with environmentally benign salt or a cheaper, more damaging material -- could be affected by the switch to a private operator, the critics suggested.

"You're ceding decision-making to a private corporation that really belongs in the public sector," said Abigail Field, a lobbyist for NJPIRG Citizen Lobby. "The idea of trying to outsource the pain and anger of voters by putting toll increases into a contract -- that's crazy."

Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-Middlesex), chairman of the Assembly Transportation Committee, said he is troubled that the state would be giving up the right to set tolls on the highways, and that any lucrative lease would have to be for 50 or 100 years; it would be hard for the state to project transportation needs that far in the future.

"There's no question the money is there. The question is, what's the price of that money?" he said.

Lawmakers have been considering selling the Turnpike since last year, when Senate President Richard Codey (D-Essex), who was also governor at the time, suggested the state look at it. Indiana realized $3.8 billion from the sale of its state toll road to a consortium of private managers from Australia and Spain.

New Jersey Treasurer Brad Abelow, who has been overseeing a five-month study of potential state asset sales, said he has not reached any conclusions on a potential Turnpike deal.

"It's a little bit ahead of us," he said of Lesniak's plan to introduce legislation. "We're working as hard and as fast as we can."

Corzine said he is awaiting Abelow's recommendations, expected early next year, on the best options for handling such details as toll schedules and maintenance, but added he is confident Lesniak will be a "partner" in any final proposal.

"We're going to do a good job, not a fast job," the governor said. "We're not to conclusions yet, because we have to see what the trade-offs are."

In addition to the toll roads, the state Lottery was among the top candidates for quick privatization identified last month in a report to Abelow by UBS Investment Bank.

However, Codey and Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts (D-Camden) said the Lottery plan cannot go forward because it would require a constitutional amendment and would have to be placed on next year's ballot for voter approval.

"It's not going to go on the ballot for 2007," Codey said.

----------------------------------

Staff writer Deborah Howlett contributed to this report.

JCMAN320
January 30th, 2007, 02:52 PM
Hearing tonight on Parkway widening

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection will hold a hearing tonight in Little Egg Harbor Township on a plan to widen the Garden State Parkway from two lanes to three in each direction along the Jersey Shore.

The New Jersey Turnpike Authority has asked for permits to widen a 50-mile stretch of the road from Toms River to Somers Point, though only the northern third of that project, from Toms River to Exit 63 in Barnegat, is currently funded, authority spokesman Joe Orlando said.

The authority hopes to begin construction on that 17-mile, $150 million first phase in early 2008, he said. There is no timetable yet for the rest of the proposed work.

The hearing tonight will focus on the permits the Turnpike Authority needs to secure from DEP before the work can begin. There are environmentally sensitive coastal wetlands within the project area, so the Authority needs permission from DEP under the Coastal Area Facility Review Act.

The hearing will begin at 7 p.m. at the Little Egg Harbor Municipal Court, 665 Radio Road, Little Egg Harbor. Written comments on the permits can be submitted through Feb. 14 to the Department of Environmental Protection Land USe Regulation Program, Attention Priya Sundaram, Box 439, Trenton, NJ 08625.

Contributed by Tom Feeney

OmegaNYC
January 30th, 2007, 03:04 PM
Great. What NJ needs. More highways. :rolleyes:

pianoman11686
January 30th, 2007, 04:44 PM
It's not "more highways." It's widening an existing highway that simply doesn't accommodate the amount of traffic.

Bob
January 30th, 2007, 05:42 PM
Opposed to road widening, eh? Why not start a grass roots effort to begin road narrowing...after all, you'll have the same success as the Sierra Club has had in its efforts to tear down the Glen Canyon Dam. And, the same level of credibility.

Ninjahedge
January 31st, 2007, 09:28 AM
Opposed to road widening, eh? Why not start a grass roots effort to begin road narrowing...after all, you'll have the same success as the Sierra Club has had in its efforts to tear down the Glen Canyon Dam. And, the same level of credibility.

Um, Red Herring.

Noone said that they are going for that, so your point is not valid and only goes to express a radical extrapolation of a position to disprove the extrapolation and therefore invalidate (emotionally) the original position.

Very juvenile. It may work for Presedential elections, but it does not work well here "Bob".

Dagrecco82
January 31st, 2007, 10:27 AM
Poor Pine Barrens. :mad:

Bob
January 31st, 2007, 09:50 PM
I refer my right honorable friend to the message I posted earlier. <grin>

JCMAN320
January 31st, 2007, 11:05 PM
If they extend it it will cut into the Pine Barrens, which is a shame since they are such a natural beauty and wonder.

Anybody think this sounds like a good idea?:

Bill seeks bids for Turnpike, Parkway

New Jersey started down the road toward selling the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway this morning, as a key state senator proposed legislation that would solicit bids from private firms to operate the highways for 75 years.

Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union) today unveiled a bill he plans to introduce Monday that would authorize the state treasurer to solicit bids for the operation of the state's biggest highways. Lesniak said the deal could raise as much as $15 billion, which he would dedicate to reducing New Jersey's $33 billion in long-term debt.

"This brings the efficiency required by competition to state government," Lesniak said at a news conference in Trenton this morning. "I think we have to take a look at major change in the way government does business, because what we have been doing in the past is not working."

Lesniak's proposal would authorize the winning bidder to raise tolls on cars every year to match increases in the Consumer Price Index. Annual hikes in tolls for trucks and commercial vehicles would be tied to the increase in the state's Gross Domestic Product.

Lesniak's proposal would also require the winning bidder to honor union contracts in place on the highways for at least six years.

Besides soliciting bids from private firms, Lesniak's plan would let the New Jersey Turnpike Authority submit a bid of its own to continue running the highways.

Lesniak's proposal marks the most substantial step yet the state has taken to generate a windfall through the sale of state assets.

State Treasurer Brad Abelow has been studing privatization options since last summer, and Gov. Jon Corzine in his State of the State address earlier this month promised to look to "asset monetization" as a way to bankroll school aid, open space preservation and other initiatives.

Contributed by Dunstan McNichol

JCMAN320
February 5th, 2007, 11:27 PM
From the Jersey Journal:

Manzo bill would stop Turnpike sale

Monday, February 05, 2007
By ALI WINSTON
JOURNAL STAFF WRITER

Assemblyman Lou Manzo, D-Jersey City, is trying to put the brakes on Gov. Jon Corzine's proposed sale of the New Jersey Turnpike to private investors.

The proposed sale is opposed by Turnpike employees - and, reportedly, more than a third of them live in Hudson County.

Manzo's bill, which will go before the state Assembly before the end of the term, would bar the Turnpike Authority from turning over "comprehensive or overall operation or management of a highway project" to private developers.

Calling the sale a "quick-fix gimmick," Manzo said that the one-time injection of cash into state coffers would be far outweighed by the loss of a valuable public asset.

"Selling or transferring state assets, such as the lottery or land, to the pension fund for management is a more practical solution," he said. "The profits or value of the assets can be substituted for the annual state payment owed to the fund."

The controversial sale of highways to private investors in Illinois and Indiana, where tolls have risen and roadways have fallen into disrepair, has fueled the fears of Turnpike employees, represented by AFL-CIO Local 194.

Frank Forst, a representative for Turnpike employees, said workers are concerned about losing their state benefits - or even their jobs - if the Turnpike is privatized.

Manzo also said that turning over a public asset to private hands would complicate oversight of the Turnpike.

"Millions of dollars in profits that could be made by non-transparent handlers in the sale of such assets, in an already ethically-challenged climate, could provide for a pay-for-play smorgasbord," he said.

Ninjahedge
February 6th, 2007, 09:09 AM
Frank Forst, a representative for Turnpike employees, said workers are concerned about losing their state benefits - or even their jobs - if the Turnpike is privatized

They have a VERY cushy position, and they know it.

If it went private, I would be 25% of them would be let go and a bunch of benefits would evaporate (like pensions and the like).

Although I know why and feel for these guys, one of teh reasons this is being sold is because it is not HELPING NJ any by having them like that. They have become self-sustaining entities. Each county put a toll booth in on things like the GSP just to collect revenue, but it ended up being an even-wash all things considered.

I am not sure that selling the TP will be the best thing to do, but these guys complaining about it will fall on many a deaf ear.

JCMAN320
February 16th, 2007, 12:39 AM
Assembly panel hits speed bumps on toll road lease plan

An Assembly committee questioned the wisdom of a proposal to raise money by leasing New Jersey’s toll roads.

As the Corzine administration continues to study the possibility of leasing the Turnpike, the Atlantic City Expressway and the Garden State Parkway — assets analysts believe could bring the state billions of dollars — it’s become clear there is strong opposition to the idea in the Legislature.

At a public hearing in Secaucus today, every member of the Assembly Transportation and Public Works Committee worried about the ramifications of letting a private company operate and maintain the toll roads.

“Friends don’t let friends ‘monetize,’” said Assemblywoman Jennifer Beck (R-Monmouth), echoing the term Corzine uses to describe various ways the state might raise cash by leasing or selling its assets. “I think this is a mistake for the long-term interests of New Jersey.”

The Democrats on the committee were just as concerned.

“I cannot see how we can turn over a highway to a for-profit venture and expect the quality of service and level of service to remain the same,” Assemblyman Gordon M. Johnson (D-Bergen) said.

The Corzine administration has not made a specific proposal for leasing the roads. Treasurer Bradley Abelow and Transportation Commissioner Kris Kolluri have been studying the issue. They will make recommendations to the governor soon, Treasury spokesman Tom Vincz said.

Even though no specific piece of legislation has been introduced in the Assembly, today’s hearing was the first of three scheduled by Transportation and Public Works Committee Chairman John Wisiniewski (D-Middlesex).

Wisniewski noted that in Indiana — where Gov. Mitch Daniels signed a $4 billion, 75-year lease last spring that put a consortium of private companies in charge of operating the Indiana Toll Road — only 10 days passed between when the deal was struck and the Legislature was asked to vote on it.

“You can’t grasp, understand and analyze an issue of this magnitude in 10 days,” Wisiniewski said.

Most of the dozen speakers who addressed the committee expressed concern about privatizing the roads.

“A good deal for the private sector might not be a good deal for the public interest,” said David Weinstein, the manager of public and government affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic.

State Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union), who has introduced a bill that would allow a role for the private sector in operating the state’s toll roads, told the committee something dramatic needs to be done to begin paying down the state’s $100 billion in debt.

“New Jersey is the wealthiest state in the nation,” he said. “Unless we solve our daunting problems, we won’t be for long.”

But Gail Toth, director of the New Jersey Motor Truck Association, cautioned toll hikes would be inevitable if a private company were to take over the road.

Contributed by Tom Feeney

Ninjahedge
February 16th, 2007, 09:04 AM
"Offer me solutions, offer me alternatives and I decline..."


Hmmm....


I think we need some solutions and alternatives.....


At least, that's what Lenny Bruce would say....

TimmyG
February 18th, 2007, 07:05 PM
Selling state highways?Some oppose lease of Turnpike and Parkway
Strapped for cash, the state of New Jersey may be looking to lease some of its most valuable assets - state toll roads - to fill looming budget gaps and reduce the overhead costs of highways such as the New Jersey Turnpike and the Garden State Parkway.

Following the example of several other states, New Jersey State Senator Ray Lesniak (D-20th Dist.) authored legislation that would lease two of the state's most traveled highways to private investors for 75 years.

In arguing for the plan, Lesniak said the lease agreement could generate for the state as much as $15 billion, allowing the state to pay some of its $50 billion debt and to invest funds in schools.

In exchange for taking over the Turnpike and Parkway, private investors would get to collect the tolls and would receive equally lucrative tax benefits.

State officials claim that the deal would not jeopardize safety or reduce services that are currently provided - such as upkeep, snow removal and state police patrols - and that the Turnpike Authority would be able to oversee the operations.

The state's first public hearing on the matter was held in Secaucus this past Thursday. Some lawmakers are opposed to the plan and are offering alternatives.

History of the toll roads

Both highways were constructed in the years following World War II to accommodate the vast shift of population from the cities to the suburbs south and west of urban Hudson County.

The concept was taken from the late 19th- and early 20th-century concept of fee-for-use private roads that cris-crossed the muddy Meadowlands and other areas of the state.

Rather than impose increased taxes for their construction and maintenance, legislators set up a fee that guarantees the repair and maintenance of these two critical highways.

In the late 1990s and during the first few years of this century, governors Donald DiFrancesco and Jim McGreevey began to reduce the number of tolls on the Parkway and instituted a revised EZ Pass toll system to help deal with the congestion. The expectation was that tolls would eventually be further reduced or completely eliminated.

Manzo opposes lease plan

But the new proposal could have just the opposite effect, said lawmakers opposed to the plan.

Assemblyman Louis Manzo (D-31st Dist.), for one, who represents Bayonne and part of Jersey City, is not convinced and has offered an alternative.

Manzo believes that if the highways are sold, tolls would rise. He says the fees would not be regulated by the state, but would be tied to the consumer price index for cars and other indexes tied to commercial vehicle sales.

Lesniak's proposal would protect toll road workers up to six years or for two collective bargaining cycles.

This sparked an immediate reaction from the New Jersey Turnpike Employees' Union, who said such a deal would have "a profound and debilitating impact" on the workers and their families.

"It was always well known that many of our members hailed from Hudson County," said Frank Forat, assistant to the president of the union. "Many additional former Hudson County residents living in other counties also work for the Turnpike Authority."

A third live in Bayonne and JC

Manzo said a third of the workers for the Turnpike live in Bayonne and Jersey City.

"This is a bad deal," he said.

Assemblyman John Wisniewski, who chairs the Transportation and Public Works Committee, said that over the long run the state could end up losing money, since the benefit of the lease would be a one-shot deal, while revenues from the tolls were relatively consistent.

In response to the Lesniak proposal, Manzo has submitted legislation that would prohibit the New Jersey Turnpike Authority from entering into any agreement with a private entity for the comprehensive or overall operation and management of highway projects.

Manzo said his legislation would not affect programs like EZ Pass or operations regarding the PNC Bank Arts Center, which is contracted through the Parkway Authority.

"It appears that some of my colleagues are intent on selling the Turnpike. Clearly, this is an impractical solution in addressing the state's fiscal woes," Manzo said. "[My] bill will take the 'for sale' sign off of the Turnpike. With regard to these quick-fix gimmicks, it's time to stop applying Band-Aids when we need major surgery. Selling or transferring state assets such as the lottery or land to the pension fund for management is a more practical solution to New Jersey's fiscal plight. The profits or value of the assets can be substituted for the annual state payment owed to the fund. This would be a massive savings for the taxpayer. Millions of dollars in profits that could be made by nontransparent handlers in the sale of such assets, in an already ethically challenged climate, could provide for a pay-for-play smorgasbord."
©The Hudson Reporter 2007

JCMAN320
February 23rd, 2007, 01:06 PM
NEW JERSEY TURNPIKE
1-way tolls to go live at Exit 17E

Friday, February 23, 2007

One-way tolls at Interchange 17E on the New Jersey Turnpike in Secaucus will go live Sunday morning.

The project, which was announced last November, will eliminate tolls for vehicles entering the New Jersey Turnpike northbound from Route 495 via Interchange 17E. Tolls for Route 495 East and Lincoln Tunnel-bound traffic will be adjusted to $1.30 for passenger cars and $2.60 for other vehicles.

In preparation for the switch, a series of ramp and lane closures will take place between now and Sunday. Drivers are advised to monitor Highway Advisory radio (590 AM) for information about closures.

The cost to implement the changes is projected to be $8 million.

COTTON DELO

JCMAN320
March 7th, 2007, 07:07 PM
Voters aren't buying Turnpike, lotto sale

New Jersey voters are leery of putting the New Jersey Turnpike and state lottery into private hands to raise money for the cash-starved state, a new poll released today has found.

Fairleigh Dickinson University's PublicMind poll found 58 percent of voters say leasing the Turnpike is a bad idea, compared to 20 percent who support it.

Fifty-four percent say leasing the lottery is a bad idea, compared to 20 percent who support it.

Assemblyman Lou Manzo, D-Jersey City, has been among the state's most vocal critics of the Turnpike plan, speaking out against the proposal as a recent Assembly commitee hearing held in Secaucus.

Gov. Jon S. Corzine hasn't committed to any proposal, but has said the state will need to find some way to make money off state property if it's to pay mounting debt and free money for needs such as public school construction, state college expansion, open space preservation and property tax relief.

"The governor may want to sell assets, but the public is not yet buying the idea,'' said Peter J. Woolley, political scientist and poll director.

Despite skepticism over leases, the FDU poll found 55 percent of New Jersey voters approve of Corzine's performance, up from 51 percent in January.

Corzine's strongest support comes from public employee households, which give him a 62 percent approval rate.

The poll found New Jerseyans don't expect to see their highest-in-the-nation property taxes decrease despite a plan by lawmakers to slice property taxes by 20 percent for most homeowners. It found 69 percent expect property taxes to increase in their community, with nearly half expecting them to increase "a lot.''

The poll of 800 randomly selected registered voters was conducted from Feb. 27 through March 4. It has a sampling error margin of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Associated Press

JCMAN320
August 29th, 2007, 10:28 PM
Group says Corzine plan could more than double Turnpike tolls

by Dan Murphy Wednesday August 29, 2007, 4:56 PM

A group that's keeping a skeptical eye on Gov. Jon Corzine's plans to turn future toll revenue into ready cash says the average New Jersey Turnpike commuter could end up paying $2,400 in tolls annually.

Peter Humphreys, a Wall Street lawyer working with a group called "Save Our Assets NJ," came up with that figure -- based on the idea that the state would want to raise $15 billion and pay it back over 20 years. He told the Associated Press that would require increasing tolls 150 percent.

Corzine is working on a plan - but has not yet unveiled it - that would draw up-front cash from state assets like the Turnpike, to pay down state debt and free up money for other needs. He is considering forming a nonprofit agency that would manage state toll roads and issue bonds, to be paid back by higher tolls.

Corzine has not said how much money would be raised or how much tolls might increase.

Humphreys is a partner in the McDermott Will & Emery law firm in New York who specializes in securitization deals. Save Our Assets NJ is a coalition of 11 groups including the NJ Motor Truck and the American Trucking Associations, several unions that represent toll road workers and the Manasquan-based Citizens Against Tolls.

Turnpike Authority spokesman Joseph Orlando said the average cash-paying automobile driver pays $1.92 per Turnpike trip. At that rate, a driver who goes to work five days per week for 50 weeks per year pays $960 annually. Under Humphreys' estimate, that would climb to $2,400 per year.

"We're just trying to provide an illustration that we think is fair," Humphreys told AP. "The problem is we don't really have a plan."

Treasury Department spokesman Tom Vincz didn't answer whether the estimate is realistic, saying doing so served no purpose and arguing the estimate was "intended only to inflame, not to educate."

STT757
August 29th, 2007, 10:40 PM
It's ok as long as the money goes towards improvements such as this badly needed expansion.


Bloomfield firm gains pact to widen Turnpike
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
BY TOM FEENEY
Star-Ledger Staff

A Bloomfield engineering firm was awarded a $19.2 million contract yesterday to help design a massive widening of the New Jersey Turnpike.

The Turnpike Authority plans to widen the 35 miles between Interchanges 6 and 9 at a cost of about $2 billion. Ten different companies will be hired to design the work.

Dewberry-Goodkind Inc. be came the latest design company hired when the authority's board awarded them a contract for the 1.5-mile stretch of the road around Interchange 8 in East Windsor Township. That work includes the relocation of the toll plaza at exit 8.

The authority plans to widen the Turnpike to 12 lanes over the 35 miles between Interchange 9 in East Brunswick and Interchange 6 in Mansfield, Burlington County. That will mean adding one lane in each direction between Interchanges 9 and 8A in Monroe and three lanes in each direction between 8A and 6.

It will be the largest expansion project in the Turnpike's history.

The money to pay for the engineering work became available last year when the Turnpike Authority abandoned its plan to build Route 92, a proposed toll road that would have linked the Turnpike to Route 1 in southern Middlesex County. The $175 million that had been set aside for that project was reallocated to the Turnpike widening.

Where the state will get the money to pay for the actual widening is an open question.

"We know the widening is absolutely necessary, and we know the cost of the project is $2 billion," said state Transportation Commis sioner Kris Kolluri, who is also chairman of the authority's board. "Now we're faced with figuring out how to pay for it."

In other business yesterday, the board agreed to pay up to $32 million to help NJ Transit provide rail access to the Meadowlands complex.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey recently agreed to pay an identical amount to the Turnpike Authority to help fund improvements at Interchange 16W. The Port Authority has an interest in that section of the highway be cause it feeds the Lincoln Tunnel.

Because the P.A. is paying for those highway improvements, the Turnpike Authority was able to shift $32 million to Meadowlands rail project, Kolluri said.

The authority also announced it had agreed to new four-year contracts with two of its unions -- Local 194 of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers and Local 3914 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. Both contracts call for Turnpike employees to begin paying $600 a year toward health care costs in the first year and provide for wage increases identical to the ones other state workers negotiated -- 3 percent in the first two years and 3.5 percent in the second two years.

Frank Forst, an official with Local 194, said the contract also provides the union with protection in the event that the operation of the state's toll roads is turned over to another entity during the life of the contract.

<nj.com>

Hamilton
September 1st, 2007, 01:02 PM
I'm glad people are finally talking about having auto drivers carry their weight and fund their own highways. The only socialism that I see here, Bob, is the subsidies we give car drivers living in McMansions out in Morris and Sussex Counties to drive 70 miles to work every day from their subdivisions are . I say we end socialized highways.

Next we have to get Jersey to stop subsidizing new infrastructure for the exurbs and strip malls and other sprawl.

JCMAN320
September 11th, 2007, 03:27 PM
NJ is set to borrow another $800M

by Dunstan McNichol Tuesday September 11, 2007, 10:59 AM

New Jersey's public debt is poised to swell again as a state economic development panel today approved borrowing $800 million for the state's public school construction program.


The $800 million, scheduled to be borrowed early next month, was approved by the Economic Development Authority. Once those bonds are issued, the schools program will have consumed all but $1.7 billion of the $8.6 billion lawmakers authorized seven years ago for the construction initiative.

Managers of the revamped school building program, the New Jersey Schools Development Authority, have told lawmakers they need another $3.25 billion in borrowing authority to keep building schools for the next two years.

Today's borrowing follows by one week the approval for a $1.2 billion bond issue to support highway and mass transit projects for a year. Those debts will be added to the $33.7 billion in loans outstanding at the end of 2006.

New Jersey closed out last year with the fourth highest debt load in the nation, and it costs the state about $3 billion a year to repay the loans.

To help pay down the debt, Gov. Jon Corzine and his administration are working on a plan to raise billions of dollars by borrowing against state assets like the tolls generated by the New Jersey Turnpike.

JCMAN320
October 5th, 2007, 04:47 AM
Judge wants toll-road study explanations

Friday, October 05, 2007
BY JOE DONOHUE
Star-Ledger Staff

A state Superior Court judge has ordered Corzine administration officials to appear in court next month to explain why they are keeping under wraps a study of the revenue-raising potential of the state's three toll roads.

An order by Superior Court Judge Linda Feinberg -- issued Sept. 28 but made public yesterday -- set a Nov. 16 court hearing.

Feinberg's order was in response to a Republican lawsuit demanding the governor release an $800,000 study of the toll revenues and traffic trends by Steer Davies Gleave of London. The firm's study focused on the New Jersey Turnpike, Garden State Parkway and Atlantic City Expressway, along with Route 440 between the Turnpike and Parkway.

Since last fall, Corzine has been devising a sweeping plan that would use higher tolls on state highways to reduce state debt and finance long-term public projects such as new parks, bridges and schools. The governor said he still is working on the details and does not plan to release it before the Nov. 6 legislative elections.

But with most polls showing his idea is unpopular, Republicans have been trying to force the Democratic governor to at least make public the toll revenue study before campaigns are over. They have vowed that, if handed a majority, they would kill the so-called "asset monetization" plan. Democrats now hold majorities in both legislative houses.

Assembly Minority Leader Alex DeCroce (R-Morris) said he is pleased with Feinberg's ruling but expressed dismay that she did not order a hearing before Election Day.

"The Corzine administration shouldn't even be wasting taxpayer dollars to fight a request to see public documents," said DeCroce. "But since it is, I have no doubt the governor will use every legal trick in the book to keep his super-secret monetization report locked away until well after the election so Democrats can escape any real debate of any issue that can break the back of the state budget and New Jersey taxpayers."

David Wald, spokesman for the Attorney General's Office, which is representing the administration, said he had no comment on the case.

JCMAN320
October 8th, 2007, 10:49 PM
NJ building barriers to cut crossover crashes

by Tom Feeney Monday October 08, 2007, 7:31 PM

In hopes of reducing the number of tragic crossover crashes on its highways, New Jersey has been building barriers on its unprotected medians -- with dramatic results.

The state Department of Transportation has spent $20 million since 2003 putting up barriers along 81 miles of highway with medians up to 60 feet wide. The results are plain: Crossover crashes on the highways with new median barriers fell from 75 in 2004 to 40 in 2006.

The state's data show that every crossover crash causes, on average, 0.425 deaths, Transportation Commissioner Kris Kolluri said. That means the reduction of 28 crashes from 2005 to 2006 saved 12 lives, he said.

"What the data here are showing is a substantial reduction in the number of these accidents," Kolluri said. "The goal was to minimize the incidence of serious accidents and, especially, fatalities. I would venture to say we've done that."

New Jersey committed to putting barriers in many of its unprotected medians after a spate of deadly crossover crashes. Planning began in 2002, but the work was accelerated after a deadly Memorial Day Weekend in 2003.

The DOT pledged then to put up 100 miles of median barriers over the next five years, and it will meet that goal, Kolluri said. Ninety-one miles of median barriers will have been installed by the end of this year, and the 100-mile mark will be passed in 2008, he said.

Read the full story in Tuesday's Star-Ledger.

JCMAN320
November 28th, 2007, 01:28 AM
Corzine's remarks provide map of 'secret' toll revenue plan

Monday, November 26, 2007
BY DEBORAH HOWLETT AND JOE DONOHUE
Star-Ledger Staff

Expectations were high when one of Wall Street's wizards arrived on West State Street nearly two years ago, promising to work his magic on a nearly bankrupt state government, but Gov. Jon Corzine has yet to pull a rabbit out of a hat.

He's promising to do just that in his State of the State address in January, when he'll reveal his grand plan for using toll revenues to restructure the state's finances.

"The overall program will set a pattern not only New Jersey will use, but other states," he said.

At the very least, Corzine's plan could result in the largest public bond sale in the nation's history, said Kurt Forsgren, a Standard and Poor's analyst.

The prospect of a blockbuster deal is intriguing, Forsgren added, not only to other states, but to many of Corzine's old Wall Street buddies, who wonder if they will again be dazzled by the man who took Goldman Sachs & Co. public.

At home, anticipation has given way to impatience to see the plan Corzine originally promised to deliver in April, before his near-fatal car crash. Republicans accused him of keeping the plan secret to avoid scrutiny before the recently concluded legislative elections.

Corzine's top aides say it's possible to get a pretty clear picture of the plan by parsing what he has said about it since he introduced the phrase "asset monetization" in a speech on the floor of the General Assembly in July 2006.

The governor's remarks since then provide a distinct outline of his goals and principles, even without filling in important, and still undecided, details.


A DIFFERENT APPROACH

When Corzine first began talking about selling or leasing the New Jersey Turnpike and other state assets, all options were open. After a public forum in Paramus that fall, Corzine chief of staff Tom Shea said, "Everything is on the table."

In the face of vocal public opposition to selling or leasing the New Jersey Turnpike, Corzine jettisoned that idea; he was already working on what he called an "entirely different" approach.

Instead of selling toll roads, Corzine said, he would create a "public benefit corporation" that essentially allows the citizens of New Jersey to buy the toll roads from the state in the same way a multi-national corporation might.

"We're developing a new vehicle -- completely out-of-the-box scenario -- to give the benefits of monetization without the costs and compromises that other states have done on private lease or sale," Corzine said last June.

A public benefit corporation is a quasi-government agency that serves a specific public purpose, such as Amtrak or the Postal Service. Corzine has also looked at international models that include some involvement by private investors but still maintain public ownership and oversight.

The corporation Corzine envisions (its working title is the "Capital Solutions Corp.") could borrow billions and repay the bonds with future revenues from increased tolls, air rights and access rights.

"It has a stand-alone financial capacity independent of the state," Corzine said, summing it up for reporters last week. "It will have a cash flow that comes from tolls and activities of what will be a new authority to oversee the Turnpike and the Parkway."

The greatest impediment, however, has been discussions with the Internal Revenue Service over how the corporation's finances would be structured -- specifically its tax-exempt status. Selling tax-exempt bonds could allow the state to raise up to 50 percent more, experts said.

A U.S. Treasury spokesman, Andrew DeSouza, said the IRS doesn't talk about specific cases. But discussion with the IRS suggests Corzine is looking to give private investors a stake, said Peter Samuel, editor of TollRoadsNews.com.

"If there's a difficult tax decision there, it's some kind of hybrid he has in mind that involves some kind of private equity," Samuel said. "If it's to be another purely state-owned public benefit corporation, I can't see why there should be any big tax issues."

Forsgren added the IRS is probably cautious about the precedent it sets if other states follow New Jersey's lead.

"It's basically leveraging toll road revenues in a way that hasn't been done," Forsgren said. "I don't doubt that they are thinking about the bigger picture."

The windfall from Corzine's new corporation could be enormous; estimates have put it anywhere from $20 billion to $40 billion.


HIGHER TOLLS AHEAD

Republican critics say to pay off half the state's debt, as Corzine has promised, it will require a tripling of tolls on the Turnpike.

In late June, Corzine and state Treasurer Bradley Abelow said substantial toll hikes were inevitable because the state will run out of money in the Transportation Trust Fund within two or three years. Corzine said his plan would guarantee any future toll hikes would be open, predictable and public.

Corzine's economic sorcery isn't as novel as it might seem, according to Joseph Giglio, a Northeastern University professor who is vice chairman of the Hudson Institute and a former executive at Smith Barney and Bear Stearns & Co.

Giglio suggested Corzine is looking at a private-public hybrid that retains the ability to issue either taxable or tax-free bonds, depending on market conditions. Giglio discussed the idea with Abelow after a speech at Rutgers University last February. Such corporations are common in Europe and Hong Kong, he said, and a similar one built the New York subway system early in the last century.

"He's going to say it's innovative and novel," Giglio said. "All they are doing is pouring old wine in new bottles."


Deborah Howlett may be reached at (609) 989-0273 or dhowlett@starledger.com. Joe Donohue may be reached at (609) 989-0208 or jdonohue@starledger.com.

66nexus
November 28th, 2007, 02:53 AM
I swear, I'd pay higher tolls for two-three years if it meant lower taxes. It'll NEVER happen. 2-3 years isn't enough, and taxes seem to be good at going in one direction...^

STT757
November 28th, 2007, 09:20 AM
I'm all for increasing the Tolls to avoid raising taxes, but if they are going to do it don't do it halfway. Do it so that they can generate the revenue to pay down the Debt, maintain the bridges and roads in a State of good repair, and expand the NJ Transit rail system to realize new oppurtunities that will come with the new Hudson Rail tunnel.

The MOM project is most important to me because I live along the route (Freehold).

http://www.njtransit.com/tm/tm_servlet.srv?hdnPageAction=MonOceanMidTo

JCMAN320
February 18th, 2008, 02:22 PM
Developers boost idea of tolls for Rts. 78, 80
Senator says that option would set back consensus

Monday, February 18, 2008
BY JOE DONOHUE
Star-Ledger Staff

A trade group representing industrial office park developers has asked the Corzine administration to reconsider imposing tolls on Routes 78 and 80 as a way to hold down future increases on existing toll roads.

Michael McGuinness, chief executive officer of the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties, said the proposal, along with a gasoline tax increase, would help make the governor's toll-for-debt plan more palatable.

"We're supporting some elements of the plan, but we do not support the plan as it is currently structured," said McGuinness, whose group has 550 members in New Jersey. "Our big problem is the tolls. That's just going to have a huge adverse impact on our economy. What we see is the way he's going at it now is flawed."

However, Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union), who intends to sponsor the bill implementing Gov. Jon Corzine's plans, said that instead of reviving the idea of tolling other major roadways in the state, he should kill the idea once and for all.

"They may not be shooting it down. But I will. It's a nonstarter," said the lawmaker, who was one of the main critics of the idea when it was first floated a year ago. "I just don't think we should be adding tolls. It just creates more kinds of political problems."

Lilo Stainton, the governor's spokeswoman, acknowledged the administration had received a letter from the trade group outlining its recommendations. While not saying whether administration officials now intend to take a serious second look at tolling Routes 78 and 80, and perhaps other roads, she also did not reject that possibility.

"The governor has said at this point that this plan is somewhat of a work in progress," Stainton said. "He has said he's open to alternatives and that the details are still evolving."

Lesniak said lawmakers and administration officials are "getting close to building a consensus around a solution. This would just set us back."

In a letter sent Feb. 15 to the governor, the industrial office park developers' group also urged him to study how his complex plan would affect the state's economy, particularly commercial development, and to devise an economic stimulus package to help dispel any potential negative effects.

"If after this impact analysis the governor determines that toll increases are necessary, then all we're saying is -- you have to level the playing field," McGuinness said.

A better option, he contends, is imposing tolls on all major highways, possibly even including new toll booths at the Delaware and New York entrances, respectively, to Routes 295 and 287.

Tolling more roads and raising the state's 14.5-cent-per-gallon gasoline tax, the nation's third-lowest, could avoid the whopping toll increases the governor wants for the New Jersey Turnpike, Garden State Parkway and Atlantic City Expressway. That will lead to less diversion of existing toll-road traffic onto free highways or local streets and discourage developers from relocating to Pennsylvania, McGuinness said.

Corzine is proposing a new quasi-public corporation to operate the state's three existing toll roads. The company would be allowed to boost tolls by up to 50 percent, plus inflation, every four years between 2010 and 2022, and just by the cost of inflation every four years after that.

The extra tolls would be used to retire up to $38 billion in new bonds that would be used to pay off up to $20 billion in debt backed by the state budget. Most of the remaining funds would be plowed into the state's nearly broke transportation fund, a move Corzine believes would make it solvent for several decades.

The Corzine administration briefly considered analyzing whether it made sense to include Routes 78 and 80, but the governor himself has said officials did "not seriously" consider those alternatives. Just floating the idea drew harsh criticism from both Democratic and Republican lawmakers when the news surfaced in November 2006.

Only a week ago, the governor announced at a town hall meeting in Middlesex County that he was dropping plans to impose tolls on Route 440 between the Turnpike and Parkway.

There was one alternative tolling option Lesniak said he might support. He said if Pennsylvania gets federal permission to impose tolls on Route 80, he would consider putting a toll booth on the New Jersey side of the Delaware River, though nowhere else on the highway.

JCMAN320
April 13th, 2008, 10:53 PM
Corzine's toll plan draws attention in other states

4/13/2008, 1:58 p.m. EDTThe Associated Press

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Transportation and other government officials across the country are keeping a close eye on New Jersey Gov. Jon S. Corzine's plan to raise tolls to fund transportation and pay off state debt.

But few are willing to endorse it for now.

The New York Times interviewed more than two dozen legislators and transportation officials across the country about Corzine's proposal. Hardly any of them were willing to endorse it.

"We think it punishes people for something they've already paid for, and in this program he's really going to punish the truckers," Frank J. Busalacchi, Wisconsin's transportation secretary, told the newspaper for Sunday editions.

"The idea of foisting costs on the commercial sector to basically pay down New Jersey's debt is going to hurt competitiveness," said Jack L. Schenendorf, vice chairman of the bipartisan National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission, created by Congress.

Corzine in January proposed setting up a public benefit corporation that would sell bonds paid with toll increases of 50 percent in 2010, 2014, 2018 and 2022. The increases would include inflation adjustments. After 2022, tolls would increase every four years until 2085 to reflect inflation.

The money, Corzine said, would pay at least half of $32 billion in debt and fund transportation work for 75 years.

Legislators balked at the plan so much that Corzine for now is concentrating on another initiative: passing a $33 billion state budget that cuts spending by $2.7 billion.

Still, Corzine says something needs to be done to repair aging roads, bridges and mass transit.

"I think everyone is struggling with how you pay for infrastructure," Corzine told The New York Times.

Some officials across the country are intrigued with Corzine's toll plan.

"One hopes that people really do step back and really analyze this. It's to easy to say, 'I don't want to pay higher tolls,'" said Scott Pattison, executive director of the National Association of State Budget Officers.

Joe Markosek, chairman of the transportation committee in the Pennsylvania House, gives Corzine credit for trying.

"I think we're looking at it in terms of, 'He's trying to do the best he can under a very, very difficult situation — much worse than ours,'" Markosek said.

___

Information from: The New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com

JCMAN320
June 3rd, 2008, 12:20 AM
Linking Parkway, Rt. 78

Monday, June 02, 2008
BY TOM FEENEY
Star-Ledger Staff

For 30 years, drivers on the Garden State Parkway have had only limited access to Route 78.

For 20 years, they've been promised full access was on the way.

Now, finally, it is.

Construction has begun on a 3 1/2-year, $149 million project that will at long last complete the missing link between two of the state's busiest highways. When the work is done, Parkway drivers traveling north or south will be able to exit onto Route 78 in either direction.

For drivers who want to head west from the Parkway northbound, that will mean no more waiting in heavy traffic at the Hillside exit of eastbound Route 78 and crawling across a local bridge to get onto the westbound side of the highway.

And for drivers who want to head east from the Parkway southbound, it will mean no more traveling west on Route 78 before making a U-turn at Vaux Hall Road in Union or getting off the Parkway one exit before Route 78 and snaking through the local streets in Irvington.

"This has been a major congestion and safety issue for the towns along Route 78 and one of our highest priorities," said state Transportation Commissioner Kris Kolluri.

During the first phase of the work, construction crews will build a long, circular flyover ramp that will connect the northbound Parkway and westbound Route 78. That work is expected to be completed by September 2009.

Once that's done, crews will spend two years reconstructing the local and express lanes on a one-mile stretch of Route 78 near the Parkway interchange.

During the final phase of work, which will be done in the summer and fall of 2011, the crews will complete a flyover ramp connecting the southbound Parkway and Route 78 eastbound.

"We get people coming through Union, Hillside and Irvington looking for a way to get onto 78," Irvington Mayor Wayne Smith said. "Hopefully, this will provide some relief on our local streets. We're getting ready to repave 60-plus streets in our city. We don't want them torn up as soon as we get them done."

Kolluri said he expects minimal impact on traffic during the first phase of the project. There will be lane shifts and narrowing on Route 78 and the Parkway, but any lane closures on the highways will be done during off-peak travel times, he said.

When the reconstruction of Route 78 begins in September 2009, travel on that highway will be reduced from five lanes in each direction to four, just as it was when a 2.3-mile stretch of the road in Union County was rebuilt in 2006 and 2007.

Kolluri said the Department of Transportation will use variable message boards during that phase of the project to let motorists know how long travel through the construction zone will take.

The project is being funded by the DOT and the New Jersey Turnpike Authority.

The Parkway opened to traffic in 1954. Route 78 was included in the federal interstate program two years later, but construction of the stretch of the road near the Parkway did not begin until 1973.

The federal program originally included plans for another road, Route 378, that would have crossed Route 78 and made the full interchange with the Parkway unnecessary, said Richard Raczynski, the chief engineer for the Turnpike Authority, which operates the Parkway. Even though the road was never built, the decision was made when Route 78 was designed in the late 1960s that a full interchange was not necessary.

The New Jersey Highway Authority, which built and operated the Parkway before its merger with the Turnpike Authority in 2002, included $20 million for completing the interchange in its 1986 capital plan, but the project was never built because of budget problems.


Tom Feeney may be reached at tfeeney@starledger.com or (973) 392-1790.

JCMAN320
June 11th, 2008, 08:35 PM
Sluggish traffic growth undercuts case for Turnpike widening, group contends

by Tom Feeney/The Star-Ledger Wednesday June 11, 2008, 6:48 PM

Traffic volumes on the New Jersey Turnpike have grown very little over the past three years, according to a report released today by the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a regional policy watch dog group.

Tri-State officials say the data, which they obtained through an Open Public Records Act request, undermines the state's plans to spend about $2 billion to widen the Turnpike between interchange 6 in Burlington County and interchange 9 in Middlesex.

"The traffic is just not there any more," said Zoe Baldwin, the group's New Jersey coordinator. "And you'd like to think when we have so few dollars to spend that we're spending them wisely and not on some dinosaur of a project."

While state officials acknowledge that traffic volume on the Turnpike has been decreasing, they say the decline is a blip caused by the sluggish economy rather than a trend that suggests the widening project is no longer necessary.

The number of vehicle miles traveled on New Jersey's highways historically has grown by about 2 percent a year, said Transportation Commissioner Kris Kolluri, who chairs the board of the Turnpike Authority.

The growth has been interrupted only during times of recession or depression, he said.

"Yes, the traffic volume is down, but it is a temporary situation based on the economy," Kolluri said. "That doesn't mean you shelve a worthy congestion-relief project."

Tri-State has been against the project since it was first proposed. Its officials have testified against it at public hearings, encouraging the Turnpike Authority to find less costly ways to address the bottleneck, such as expanded mass transit or steps to encourage more traffic to travel during off-peak hours.

Ninjahedge
June 13th, 2008, 10:53 AM
"Yes, the traffic volume is down, but it is a temporary situation based on the economy," Kolluri said. "That doesn't mean you shelve a worthy congestion-relief project."


*cough*MASS TRANSIT*cough*

JCMAN320
July 7th, 2008, 11:35 PM
Lawmakers consider private lanes on N.J. Turnpike

by Joe Donohue/The Star-Ledger Monday July 07, 2008, 9:21 PM

State officials said today they are discussing letting private firms operate some lanes of the New Jersey Turnpike to help pay for major transportation improvements without huge toll increases.

Under one proposal, privately run lanes would be set up solely for truck and bus traffic on the full length of the 122-mile Turnpike. Another plan would create "express lanes" where motorists would pay a premium to get away from traffic.

Senate President Richard Codey (D-Essex) and Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union) said they have discussed the idea with Gov. Jon Corzine and other administration officials, and plan to have further talks. Corzine has pledged a new long-range transportation improvement plan by late summer.

Codey said leasing one or more Turnpike lanes to a private operator could finance a pending $2.7 billion widening project without giant toll hikes for those who don't use the new lanes.

"It certainly puts a reasonable amount of money into the pot and does it without much pain to the taxpayers," he said.

Corzine is looking for an alternative after he couldn't get support for his $40 billion plan to pay down state debt and bankroll road projects by boosting tolls as much as 800 percent over the next 15 years.

Sean Darcy, a spokesman for the governor, acknowledged that lawmakers are talking with Corzine. He refused to discuss specific proposals under consideration but said Corzine is working on Plan B.

"We have been focused on getting our historic budget passed with our partners in the Legislature, but we will be exploring all options moving forward to fund the Transportation Trust Fund," he said.

Lesniak said privately run lanes dedicated solely to trucks and buses could help generate cash for bridge repairs, but the full financial impact requires further study. "Conceptually, the plan has great promise," he said.

Currently, 45 miles of the Turnpike -- from Interchange 14 at Newark to Interchange 8A at Jamesburg -- limit the center-most lanes to car traffic and direct trucks and buses to the side lanes. While cars can now use these truck lanes, they probably would be banned from them under the new plan, Lesniak said.

A spokesman for the Department of Transportation said trucks made up about 13 percent of total Turnpike traffic in 2006, but paid 33 percent of the tolls. A spokeswoman for the New Jersey Motor Truck Association could not be reached for comment.

Codey said another option is a private express lane for drivers who pay more. Such lanes exist on some California highways and are being built in Texas.

Assembly Transportation Committee Chairman John Wisniewski (D-Middlesex) said the two senators are "trying to think outside the box on how we solve our transportation funding needs in New Jersey." He suggested another idea: Letting a private operator build the new trans-Hudson River tunnel, which could free up billions in public dollars.

But Wisniewski said the state's transportation needs are so vast that even these alternatives might not be enough to avoid toll increases for all drivers, and even a small gasoline tax increase. "The money has to come from somebody," he said.

While it was common early in the last century for private companies to run transportation networks in the United States, such deals fell out of favor until the past decade.

Public officials have considered privately run roads because they provide governments with multibillion-dollar windfalls that can be used to create stable long-range funding for transportation improvements. The biggest recent leases were secured in Chicago, Indiana and Texas. A similar deal in Pennsylvania is facing stiff opposition.

Under the plan he offered earlier this year, Corzine wanted to create a quasi-public agency that would have kept the toll roads under state control.

Staff writer Tom Feeney contributed to this report.

Ninjahedge
July 10th, 2008, 09:19 AM
I think it is an interesting idea, but I do not think it would work with the current layout.

They really need to rethink this kind of thing. Closing off the truck lanes for car traffic will make NJTP congestion insane.

And paying for express when the TP is already MUCH more expensive than the GSP?

We almost need to make truck routes like rail lines. Give some of them exclusive access, but also find ways to mesh them into the existing infrastructure. What we have now, especially in areas like the entrance to the LT, is an overabundance of box trucks (or others) all trying to make it in with specific delivery points. These guys need to get in fast, but at the same time, an extra $5 at a toll matters so much less when they are hauling a full load.

I guess it all depends on how we look at it.

I am still trying to figure out how to get them to go back to using trains for some of this stuff without losing the speed and direct-delivery that trucks offer....

JCMAN320
December 1st, 2008, 08:33 PM
Tolls go up on N.J. Turnpike, Parkway

by The Associated Press Monday December 01, 2008, 5:45 AM

New Jersey drivers will have to dig deeper into their pockets starting today as toll increases take effect on the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway.

On the Turnpike, the cost of an average 22-mile trip will increase to $1.70 from $1.25. One-way tolls on the Parkway will go to 50 cents from 35 cents.

http://blog.nj.com/ledgerupdates_impact/2008/12/large_tpike.JPG
Tim Farrell /The Star-Ledger
Electronic message boards on both toll roads are reminding motorists about the increases.

The additional revenue will be used to repay bonds sold to finance past construction projects and to help pay for more than $8 billion in road work.

Three added lanes are planned for the Turnpike between Exits 6 and 8A, and a third lane will be added to the Parkway between Exits 63 and 80.

NYC4Life
December 2nd, 2008, 03:21 AM
Next Up: NYC's Mass-Transit system.

NYatKNIGHT
December 3rd, 2008, 04:02 PM
When they add the lanes between 8A and 6 does that mean the horrific traffic problem at the merge will just be moved south or will it actually ease traffic?

JCMAN320
December 4th, 2008, 10:57 AM
I'm thinking just move it further South.

JCMAN320
September 16th, 2009, 08:10 PM
Garden State Parkway, Route 78 connection to end commuter merry-go-round

by Mike Frassinelli/The Star-Ledger
Wednesday September 16, 2009, 12:49 PM

UNION COUNTY -- Four rights were just so wrong.

For more than three decades northbound drivers on the Garden State Parkway aiming for Route 78 west have been forced to do "The Move," a convoluted detour requiring four rights turns just to go left.

"It's like an Etch A Sketch. Zip, zip, zip," said Steve Carrellas, director of the National Motorists Association.

But beginning Thursday night, the missing link connecting two of the state's busiest highways will open for the 23,000 vehicles a day that are forced to do the maneuver. The heavy traffic at the Hillside exit of eastbound Route 78 should evaporate.

"It took a long time, but they are finally getting it right," said Mark Gross of Cranford, a paper products salesman who travels the two roadways and logs upwards of 400 miles a week.

"It will just make it a lot easier and faster for a lot of people."

Yet, that is only half a solution to this intersection problem. The southbound Parkway drivers wanting to travel east on Route 78 will still have their version "The Move," needing to drive west and make a U-turn at Vaux Hall road in Union, until 2011 when the second link is connected.

The price tag for the project, which includes elevated ramps similar to those on California superhighways, is $121 million.

Officials will be on hand Thursday morning to cut the ribbon on the connector, but the interchange won't open until Thursday night, officials said.

The story of why it took so long to make the connection is almost as convoluted as the U-turn itself.

That stretch of the Parkway in Union County was built in the mid 1950s. When that section of Route 78 opened in the mid 1970s, a complete interchange was not built because there were plans for other highways in the area.

On the drawing board was a plan for an interstate that would have taken out a block in Newark and connected the Parkway near Route 280. It never materialized.

Meanwhile, a huge amount of office construction to the west and upgrades to Newark Liberty International Airport to the east left more people than ever wanting to travel Route 78.

That, in turn, left more people than ever trying to forge their own shortcut around the mazelike Route 78 U-turn.

Government officials thought they had a deal in place in 2000 to finish the interchange project by 2005, but the Parkway could not come up with the cash.

The merger of the Parkway with the New Jersey Turnpike Authority made possible the financing of the missing highway link, and construction of the Parkway northbound to 78 westbound ramp began in spring 2008.

New Jersey Department of Transportation Commissioner Stephen Dilts said the project has been a high priority for commuters -- and Gov. Jon Corzine.

"For the 23,000 drivers who every single day have to go east on 78 before they can go west, this ramp is long overdue," Dilts said.

"When I go to talk to groups about projects, I could always count on the loudest applause to come from the announcement that this work is under way," he added. "It is a very, very popular project -- and a much needed project."

The breakdown of the $121 million is $72 million in federal funds and $49 million in state funds, which will eventually come out of the Turnpike Authority coffers, according to state officials.

The contractor is Union Paving and Construction of Mountainside.

"Connecting the Garden State Parkway northbound to Route 78 is a cornerstone in my administration's work to improve these roads that are so much a part of the lifeblood of our state," Corzine said in a statement.

"This project created nearly 400 jobs exactly when New Jersey needed them the most. I am pleased we finished this project ahead of schedule. More importantly though, whether it be getting home sooner to spend more time with your family or getting to work sooner, the connection of these major roadways will improve New Jerseyans' quality of life."

Beams are now being put into place for the elevated ramp that will link the southbound Parkway with 78 East in spring 2011.

About 6,500 vehicles a day go from Parkway southbound to 78 eastbound, but that number doesn't account for the drivers who may use Route 280 to get to the airport and other area destinations because they want to avoid the U-turn.