The New Jersey chapter of Americans for Prosperity yesterday accused The Star-Ledger (Newark) of misleading their readers about whether New Jersey commuters pay the highest tolls.
The S-L, in a “PolitiFact” article, disputed NJ-AfP leader Steve Lonegan’s claim that New Jersey commuters now pay the highest tolls in the country. Lonegan based his claim on the latest toll hike by the New Jersey Turnpike Authority.
NJ toll claims
NJAfP said in a December 27 e-mail message that tolls on New Jersey’s three major toll roads would rise 50 percent this year. The message mentioned the New Jersey Turnpike, the Garden State Parkway, and the Atlantic City Expressway.
The S-L retorted that the A/C Expressway tolls would stay the same. They then admitted that tolls would rise, and by about the same proportion, on the NJTP and GSP. But the S-L said that the cost-per-mile on many other States’ toll roads is still higher than those on New Jersey’s highways, especiall the GSP.
Specifically, a motorist on the Turnpike will pay 11.3 cents per mile in tolls. (On the Parkway the figure is 4.8 cents per mile.) Several other States have toll roads that charge three times as much per mile than a motorist will pay even on the Turnpike.
But in reply, Mike Proto, NJAfP’s press officer, said yesterday that the S-L ignores one key cost that New Jersey commuters have to bear: paying tolls to cross a bridge or pass through a tunnel. New Jersey commuters do not commute to New Jersey destinations. They commute to New York destinations. And, says AfP, those bridge and tunnel tolls are rising, too.
NJ tolls analysis
Americans for Prosperity has a point. Few people in New Jersey commute entirely within New Jersey. They often commute to New York, as Proto said. Or if they don’t, then they commute to Pennsylvania or Delaware, and each State has its own toll issues. None of the bridges across the Delaware or Hudson Rivers are free to cross. (They might be free to cross one way, but not the other. Typically a bridge authority will now charge double toll to cross one way only, on the theory that most people who cross one way must cross the other way later in the day.)
Furthermore, very few commuters will commute all the way from Atlantic or Cape May County into New York. (Atlantic City and Cape May are not dormitory communities at all, but resort communities.) So the cost-per-mile will rise, simply because commuters spend less time on the “lower-cost” highways and more time using the bridges and tunnels.
And citing the Garden State Parkway is a non-starter. The Parkway runs from Mahwah to Cape May. Most working commuters will use the Turnpike, because the Turnpike connects directly to New York, Philadelphia, and Delaware. No wonder the Turnpike costs more; it is in greater demand. (It also has heavier traffic and needs more effort to take care of it.)
Finally, The Star-Ledger ignores one salient fact: the Port Authority of New York and–wait for it–New Jersey sets those bridge and tunnel tolls for New York-bound commuters. Likewise, the Delaware River Port Authority does the (dis)honors for the Delaware Memorial Bridge, the Benjamin Franklin and Walt Whitman Bridges, etc. And each of those authorities has New Jersey executives, that a New Jersey Governor appoints.
Governor Chris Christie once warned, “If you tax them, they will leave.” He should remember as well, “If you charge them for toll, they will leave.” The only reason that New Jersey gets away with charging such heavy tolls is that taxes in New York and Pennsylvania more than offset the tolls. How long will that last?
For its part, The Star-Ledger does not help its reputation by apologizing for big, expensive government. Its editors might want to ask themselves why people are unsubscribing. Carriers who deliver it late are bad enough when the content is worth waiting for. And if it isn’t…!