Transportation, AFFORDABLE PLACE TO LIVE
Press of Atlantic City: State letting lockdown diminish public oversight of big toll hikes
A 2018 report from the Pew Charitable Trusts warned motorists that states were turning to toll roads “to fill treasuries and manage traffic.” It said the large toll increases were driven by stagnant revenue from gasoline taxes.
But although New Jersey increased its gas tax substantially in 2016 and set it to increase automatically from then on, the state is jacking up tolls on its major highways anyway.
While Gov. Phil Murphy and the Legislature could reduce, postpone or reject the increases, quasi-independent state authorities have done the dirty work of setting their size and proposing them — without sufficient independent outside auditing to inspire confidence that the public isn’t badly overpaying for highway improvements and maintenance.
And now, thanks to Murphy’s COVID-19 lockdown of the state to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, the public will have even less input on the biggest toll hikes ever.
Even though state residents have been ordered to remain at home and avoid unnecessary travel and contact, the South Jersey Transportation Authority is proceeding with public hearings Wednesday and Thursday, April 1 and 2, on its proposal to increase Atlantic City Expressway tolls by nearly 40%.
Credit state Sen. Chris Brown, R-Atlantic, for calling them out on this blatant disregard of the public’s role and interests. He said it was “unfair and unreasonable to expect the public to fully evaluate SJTA’s plan and offer substantive comment” during the pandemic emergency.
Read the full editorial here.