Senate President Proposes Framework to Reimburse Frequent New Jersey Drivers in the Event of a Toll Hike
TRENTON – Senate President Richard J. Codey (D-Essex) today pushed forward with a framework for a commuter discount program for frequent drivers that would be used to help subsidize the cost of increased toll fees should the Governor’s proposed toll plan become law.
“If there is going to be a toll increase to pay off our state’s debt and fund transportation projects, we must couple it with a frequent user discount plan to ease some of the burden that will be placed on our drivers,” said Sen. Codey. “The Governor has indicated that even if his proposal does not become law, he intends to raise tolls to help address some of our fiscal needs. Keeping that in mind, we must be prepared to move forward with a way to help offset the cost to those who will be hit hardest.”
Sen. Codey said that establishing a framework now will help spark a discussion to move the plan forward. In doing, so he enumerated a number of details that could provide both a simple and cost-effective means for softening the blow on commuters.
“The goal here is to create a realistic and equitable framework to guide us as we move forward. Granted, we have many more miles to go, literally and figuratively, before this plan may be needed. But, if we’re going to ask our residents to take on such a heavy lift, we have to be prepared to shoulder some of the weight and this has to be a permanent commitment on our part. If tolls are going to continue to rise contractually, then residents have every right to insist that their discounts not be arbitrarily revoked at some point in the future,” added Sen. Codey.
Sen. Codey proposed making the discount plan available to drivers of two axle vehicles and motorcycles who participate in the E-Z Pass program. Anyone wishing to apply for the program would only have to sign up once either through the E-Z Pass Web site or by completing an application that would be mailed to every New Jersey E-Z Pass tag holder. Membership in the program would automatically be renewed each year.
“By limiting the discounts to E-Z Pass participants, we will hopefully encourage more people to sign up for electronic tolling, effectively easing congestion and eliminating countless hours that the average driver spends sitting in traffic each year,” added Sen. Codey.
Sen. Codey suggested a four-tiered system that would offer frequent motorists up to a 20% discount based on their total monthly charges for driving New Jersey’s toll roads. Sen. Codey suggested that those paying $200 or more each month could qualify for the 20% discount. Other motorists could qualify for a 5, 10 or 15 percent discount based on lower tiers that would be established once the toll increases have been determined.
Sen. Codey noted an example of how the discount would affect drivers. Based on the above frameworks, a person that commutes five days a week on the Turnpike from New Brunswick (Exit 9) to the Holland Tunnel (Exit 14C) presently pays roughly $124 per month. In the year 2010 when the Governor’s first toll hike would go into effect, the same driver would be subject to roughly $212 in toll fees per month Under Sen. Codey’s discount plan, the driver would only pay roughly $170 per month in the year 2010.
Sen. Codey stressed that this proposal is simply a framework and the actual numbers would be determined based on conversations with the Legislature and the Governor’s Office. He also noted that spending thresholds for the discounts would have to be revised every four years when the tolls increase.
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