Ocean County Press Release
ARGUING THAT the public has not had a reasonable opportunity to voice its opinion on the upcoming Garden State Parkway and New Jersey Turnpike toll increases, Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari is asking Governor Phil Murphy to indefinitely postpone any decision on the toll hikes.
"It is not reasonable to believe that in the current circumstances, which we can all agree are unlike anything experienced before, that the public is fully aware and paying attention to these ill-timed toll increases," Vicari said in an April 1 letter to the governor.
The New Jersey Turnpike Authority, which oversees both the turnpike and the parkway, has already held two online public hearings about the increases. The hearings were held online as part of the ongoing restrictions against public gatherings.
"While allowed by law, these online hearings were far from normal and I do not believe anywhere near all of the public's concerns were fairly voiced at these sessions." Vicari said.
The authority live streamed hearings on March 18 and 19. A public vote on the increases is slated for April 28.
However, even if the increases are approved, Murphy could veto the authority minutes and block the action, which is something Vicari is asking the governor to consider.
"Allow this crisis to pass and then grant the public a fair chance to voice their opinion," Vicari said.
Vicari vehemently opposed the toll hikes before the coronavirus crisis shut down the state.
On March 5, Vicari sent a letter to Murphy in which he both opposed the increases and called for an Ocean County resident to be appointed to an existing vacancy on the Turnpike Authority.
Vicari argued that the rise in tolls impacts Ocean County commuters more than residents in most other parts of the state.
"We have more parkway miles in Ocean County than any other county and our commuters have a longer drive to the city and northern New Jersey," he said.
Additionally, Ocean County commuters can't take advantage of the sprawling mass transit network that crisscrosses the northern half of the state.
"We don't benefit from the many rail lines and bus routes that commuters in the more urban areas have access to," he said. "Our commuters are forced to take the parkway and forced to pay these higher tolls."