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The Commissioner's Report
Governor McGreevey plans for
of Parkway, Turnpike
On February 14 Governor McGreevey announced a plan to merge the New Jersey Turnpike and the Garden State Parkway. Consolidation will result in savings, efficiency and unified transportation planning. The Senate in March passed enabling legislation.
The Garden State Parkway and the New Jersey Turnpike were established more than 50 years ago to provide an efficient roadway network. These goals have been accomplished and the two authorities have carried out their mission well. However, over the past 15 years, the infrastructure needs on both highways have outpaced the resources available; the lack of coordination has only exacerbated the problem.
The Governor's consolidation plan addresses the issue by providing for pooled resources and a unified transportation policy. A consolidation will yield two roads with uniform purpose, uniform principles, and uniform policy, poised to deliver the safe and efficient transportation network New Jersey residents deserve.
During the first year, we will save $4 million in operating costs and eliminate more than 130 positions as we merge administrative, purchasing, legal, human resources, auditing and personnel functions. The operating savings will increase each year, reaching $9.8 million annually by 2008.
Operational savings are only part of the picture. The fact remains that while we've come a long way to fixing the fatal flaws plaguing the E-ZPass system we inherited, $300 million in debt remains. Simply put, the Parkway does not have the money to continue paying its share of the E-ZPass debt.
Without this merger, a toll hike on the Garden State Parkway is inevitable in the near future. And that is unacceptable.
By refinancing outstanding E-ZPass debt, along with existing Parkway and Turnpike debt, we will save roughly $15 million annually on debt service, avoid a Parkway toll hike and put E-ZPass on firm financial footing. From there we can ensure the continued viability of E-ZPass and faster implementation of high-speed
Fiscal arguments aside, the merger makes good planning sense. For too long, New Jersey's transportation planning network has been a fractured conglomeration of agencies and authorities. Under the proposed legislation, the New Jersey Turnpike Authority will be required to submit its capital program to my office for review and approval, ensuring that the Governor's Smart Growth and Fix It First goals are incorporated into future projects on the Turnpike and Parkway.