Highway Safety and Toll Road Consolidation plans Approved by General Assembly
(Trenton) - Transportation Commissioner Jack Lettiere today praised the New Jersey General Assembly following its approval of two comprehensive pieces of legislation to improve highway safety throughout the state and consolidate New Jersey's two largest toll road authorities.
"These are two extremely important transportation initiatives that Governor McGreevey sought to accomplish," said Lettiere. "I applaud the Assembly's support for legislation that protects the financial and physical well being of this state and its citizens."
The "Safety First" legislation (A3527) sponsored by Assemblymen Gary Guear and John Wisniewski, authorizes the designation "Safe Corridors," and doubles fines for speeding and aggressive driving within those corridors, increases fines for out-of-state overweight trucks, making violators subject to the same fine schedule as New Jersey based carriers, and creates a "Highway Safety Fund" for increased fines that will be used for highway safety programs shared by NJDOT and State Police. The bill was approved by a vote of 50-24 with two abstentions. The companion bill (S-2456) awaits action by the full Senate.
"It is our responsibility to do everything within our power to protect our colleagues, friends and loved ones as they travel on New Jersey roadways," said Lettiere. "Over the next five years, we will move forward with a $20 million dollar investment in physical and technological improvements that will help us accomplish that goal."
NJDOT will invest $15 million installing barriers along interstate highway medians to prevent collisions between vehicles traveling in opposite directions. Another $5 million will be used for technological improvements to accelerate the emergency response to accidents and redirect traffic.
A-3392, sponsored by Assemblyman John Wisniewski, Assemblywoman Linda Stender and Assemblymen Jack Conners and Jeff Van Drew, would enable the New Jersey Turnpike Authority to assume the operations, facilities and financial obligations of the New Jersey Highway Authority, which operates the Garden State Parkway. The Senate version (S-2352) was sponsored by Senators Nicholas Sacco, Andrew Ciesla and Leonard T. Connors, Jr. The Assembly approved the measure by a vote of 43 to 26 with seven abstentions. It now heads to the Governor for his signature.
The consolidation legislation provides for less costly debt service that frees up millions of dollars for necessary infrastructure improvements and quicker E-ZPass implementation.
"Consolidation of the New Jersey Turnpike and the Garden State Parkway is undoubtedly the right thing to do for New Jersey," Lettiere said. "Governor McGreevey's toll road consolidation plan also restructures the debt of the two authorities which will make millions available for badly needed construction projects and will put E-ZPass on more solid financial footing."
Commissioner Lettiere said consolidation, if enacted by July, could produce $42 million in savings over the next six years, avert a Parkway toll increase, and yield "two roads with uniform purpose, uniform principles and uniform policy."