Dancer urges Turnpike to go after federal funds, not toll hikes during health emergency

Dancer urges Turnpike to go after federal funds, not toll hikes during health emergency

TRENTON, N.J. – Rather than push forward with toll hikes during the pandemic, Assemblyman Ron Dancer said that the N.J. Turnpike Authority should tap into federal grant funding under the next round of The CARES Act for public transportation systems across the country. He made the pitch in an interview Tuesday with Joe Piscopo on New York City’s AM970 “The Answer.”

“Potentially, the state could be in the position to have shovel ready projects,” Dancer explained on air. “This could be a job stimulus package that could really help get us back to work and have tens of thousands of jobs.”

President Donald Trump and congressional leaders have proposed making massive spending on infrastructure in the next coronavirus stimulus bill, calling for a $2 trillion investment.

Dancer made the suggestion while pitching his resolution (AR152) urging Gov. Phil Murphy to postpone the toll increases unveiled last month by New Jersey Turnpike Authority just as the coronavirus pandemic brought on a state of emergency across the state.

The agency, which operates the N.J. Turnpike and Garden State Parkway, decided to hold public meetings on the hikes despite the cancellation of other events, the coronavirus outbreak and stay-at-home orders that prevented anyone from attending.

“It’s all about timing,” Dancer told Piscopo. “Quite honestly, the public hearings did not afford legitimate public input or participation.”

The authority is proposing raising tolls up to 36 percent on the New Jersey Turnpike and up to 27 percent on the Garden State Parkway. A one-way parkway trip from Bergen County to Cape May would increase from $8.25 to $9.45. An end to end drive on the turnpike would cost $18.85 (currently $13.85) for cash or E-ZPass and $14.15 (currently $10.40) for off-peak E-ZPass.

The Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders also passed a resolution on March 4 urging the governor and the New Jersey Turnpike Authority to reconsider their plan.