"Politicians have touted toll roads a fiscal panaceas. But seldom has the wishful thinking proved true."
Courier News (New Jersey)
Politicians have touted the state's toll roads as fiscal panaceas for decades. But seldom has the wishful thinking proved true. Here is a list of the most egregious of the broken promises:
1952: No tolls. The Garden State Parkway would be toll-free when its $330 million in construction bonds was paid off around 1988, or so said proponents of the new superhighway. More than 50 years later, tolls are omnipresent. The original toll charge was 25 cents at 11 toll plazas and from 10 cents to 25 cents at exit and entrance ramps.
1997: Free E-ZPass. The new, high-tech E-ZPass toll-collection system would be so smart that it would fund itself, costing motorist nothing more in fees. The system not only would catch toll cheats, but it also would collect millions of dollars in fines, estimated to be $300 million by 2003. A 2004 State Commission of Investigation report showed that only about $15.5 million in fines had been collected by 2003, with the larger amount of revenue, more than $84 million, coming from the lease of new fiber-optic lines. The SCI report said the E-ZPass contract and award was "an administrative and financial debacle of immense proportions." E-Z Pass users are now charged $12 a year to help maintain the system.
2001: No more tolls. Gubernatorial candidates James E. McGreevey and Bret Schundler said they would eliminate roadway tolls if elected. McGreevey was elected. Tolls remain.
2003: Cost savings. McGreevey pushes through a merger of the state's major toll road authorities, the Turnpike Authority and the Highway Authority, in a move he said would "end wasteful duplication and save our taxpayers' money." Four years later, predictions of large-scale savings have not materialized. The Turnpike Authority's expense budget is $465.7 million this year, compared with the combined expense budgets for both roadways of $405 million in 2003, the year before the merger.
Sources: Asbury Park Press files; budget reports
© 2007 Gannett New Jersey Group:
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