Boosting revenue for transportation infrastructure without increasing taxes is vital in these tough fiscal times, according to a trio of lawmakers sponsoring a bill to direct the New Jersey Turnpike and South Jersey Transportation Authorities to explore revenue-generating options at rest stops and service areas on the Turnpike, Garden State Parkway and Atlantic City Expressway.

Garden State Parkway (Patrick Lavery, Townsquare Media NJ)

The bill passed the full state Assembly in March, and Monday it was approved by the Senate Transportation Committee.

"The rest stops can help sustain the roads and the infrastructure of these highways that we travel," said bill co-sponsor, Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo (D-Northfield). "In a tough economy like New Jersey is experiencing, you have to look outside the box and look at things that you're already doing, and maybe we could do things differently."

The legislation would give both Authorities one year to independently study and report on the best practices at rest areas and service plazas in neighboring states, and determine whether New Jersey is maximizing revenues from billboards, cell towers and other advertising.

"You look at the rest stops, and there's certainly (an) opportunity that we might be missing," Mazzeo said. "In a lot of ways, you have a captive audience there because people have to drive these roads, so why don't you try to optimize your profits?"

The bill is co-sponsored by Assembly members John Wisniewski (D-Sayreville) and Craig Coughlin (D-Woodbridge). The legislators first proposed this measure in response to recommendations made in a 2010 report issued by the New Jersey Privatization Task Force.

"It's incumbent upon us to seek creative ways to boost revenue without burdening taxpayers," said Coughlin in an emailed press release. "Our current transportation infrastructure demands that we think outside the box to find new revenue sources to help meet our long-term needs."