TOMS RIVER, NJ – When they’re not handing out pay to play jobs to political allies, the Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders is now finding ways to spend down the $60,000,000 open space fund. When they’re not doing that, at least one, is looking out for residents of the county.
This week, Ocean County Freeholder Joe Vicari said he contacted Governor Phil Murphy and asked him to suspend the New Jersey Turnpike Authority’s toll hike during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Vicari sent a letter to the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, which oversees both highways, suggesting that E-Z Pass offer a discount to private vehicles that travel a minimum number of miles on either roadway.
“Ocean County is home to more than 90,000 commuters who travel outside of the county to go to work. The vast majority of these men and women use the Garden State Parkway,” Vicari said in the letter to Authority Chairwoman Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti. “Ocean County also has more Parkway miles than any other county in the state.”
Parkway tolls jumped 27 percent on September 13, while Turnpike tolls increased by 36 percent. Drivers on the Atlantic City Expressway saw a 37 percent hike.
“Hiking these tolls in the middle of a pandemic that has already devastated our economy is unacceptable,” Vicari said. “To make matters worse we are facing a 9-percent gas tax hike set to take effect on October 1.”
“Our commuters don’t have a choice,” he said. “Ocean County doesn’t benefit from the same extensive bus and train public transportation networks that blanket the northern counties. Our residents have to pay these rising toll and gasoline costs if they want to provide for their families.”
Ridesharing is also another way to lower travel costs during the pandemic. Ocean County Freeholder Virginia has reportedly been riding sharing to and from political events and fundraisers in a county law enforcement vehicle. Details slowly emerging on that story.