N.J. considers higher tolls for higher speeds

July 8, 2008 3:48:18 PM PDT
Paying higher tolls to go faster? Or creating privately-run lanes just for trucks and buses. Those are two of the ideas being proposed for the New Jersey Turnpike. Would you pay extra to drive in a high-speed lane on the Turnpike or the Garden State Parkway that would let you buzz by all the traffic? Zita Hudnut from Medford would.

"If I can get someplace in an hour by paying a couple bucks more rather than paying less money and taking 3 hours, I'll give you the couple bucks and get there in an hour."

Some lawmakers are now discussing the idea of having private companies build and run express lanes on the toll roads and allow them to charge nearly double the normal toll.

That would allow the state to make billions of dollars in road improvements without huge toll hikes for drivers who don't use the special lanes.

One proposal would have an express lane the entire length of the Turnpike for trucks and busses.

Another would build new lanes from exit 8A to exit 6, which leads to the Pennsylvania Turnpike. The Parkway would be widened to 3 lanes south of Exit 80 near Toms River all the way down the shore.

"We'd make a decision to continue on the old part of the road where there's no toll increase or take a new section where there would be an increase," said State Senate president Richard Codey.

Letting private firms operate toll road lanes is an idea worth examining, but it alone wouldn't raise enough money to pay for statewide transportation improvements, Gov. Jon Corzine said Tuesday.

"We're looking at a whole host of alternatives, and we have an absolute need to come together with a plan that will allow us to fund both safety and congestion initiatives that I think the public very much expects to be funded," Corzine said. "And we need to make sure that we take on some of the capital projects, and that's going to take a broad financing plan."

"When you have to travel and you want to get where you want to get you don't care how much it costs to get there," said Daphne Williams of Westchester, New York.

"I think they do it in Texas. I've seen it there and people use it a lot. They'll pay extra to be able to just fly down the highway as fast as they can go and not have to stop all the time," said Steve Briggs of Baltimore, Maryland.