TOMS RIVER-The New Jersey Turnpike and Parkway Authority are gearing up to once again raise tolls along both major state highways, the Garden State Parkway and the New Jersey Turnpike. Mayor Carmen Amato and Freeholder Joseph Vicari both have signaled their opposition the latest round of nickel and diming residents at the Jersey Shore.
Amato is concerned because Ocean County has one of the largest senior citizen concentrations in the state and is home to many struggling young families.
“Berkeley Township is home to one of the largest senior populations in the state. A good number of our residents are struggling young families trying to make ends meet,” Amato said. “A few short years ago, they were hit with a 23 cent gas tax hike and now face an increase in the tolls on the Parkway and Turnpike.”
Mayor Amato strongly opposed the gas tax hike and is now standing by Freeholder Vicari in strong opposition to increasing tolls. Amato said the hike will hit shore residents harder because of the lack of mass transit that is prevalent in other population centers of the state.
“Many of our residents don’t have access to mass transit. Which means our citizens need a vehicle to commute to and from work,” Amato said. “Our commuters are being asked again to pay up, this time at the toll booth and the last time was at the pump. This is not only unfair but it’s unconscionable.”
Amato said he will recommend the Berkeley Council adopt a resolution in strong opposition to the toll and send that resolution to the proper state authorities.
“I stand by the Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders’ opposition to this toll hike,” he added.
“Ocean County continues to be a growing county in the state and with this growth we need to move people to and from jobs, medical appointments, and recreational activities just to name a few destinations,” Vicari said. “To do this our residents heavily rely on the Garden State Parkway and the New Jersey Turnpike.”
Vicari said while the state is looking into reaching deeper into the pockets of shore residents, what about Route 9?
Vicari said that despite the county’s continuing efforts to encourage the state to bring long-needed improvements to Route 9, the other north-south artery in Ocean County – the road has not changed since it was first constructed in the 1920s, with very few areas upgraded, remaining one lane in each travel direction throughout the course of the County which has seen its population grow to almost 600,000 people.
He said the board, run by North Jersey bureaucrats is not representative of the needs of the shore area and it’s about time those Trenton and North Jersey insiders start listening to the needs of Monmouth, Ocean, Atlantic and Cape May Counties.
“There is currently a seat open on the authority and it should be filled by a representative from Ocean County,” Vicari said. “We have seen in the past, that when someone from the County served on the authority we have been able to work together to provide needed improvements to our roads and infrastructure. Without a voice, we have taxation without representation.”
“Ocean County has been continually informed by state transportation officials that dualization of Route 9 will probably never occur,” Vicari said. “So where does that leave us?”
Vicari suggested the state Legislature should consider a New Jersey income tax deduction for commuters who pay at least $500 in toll costs per year as verified by EZ Pass.
“Instead of asking for more maybe there is something the State can do to help our commuters,” Vicari said. “Clearly most people using the parkway and turnpike are doing so to get to and from work. It’s their livelihood and we shouldn’t charge them more for that.”