A bipartisan coalition of New Jersey lawmakers is trying to put the brakes on a toll hike due to take effect on the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway on Jan. 1.

The Turnpike Authority announced an automatic 3% toll increase as part of a nearly $2.3 billion budget. It would be the second toll hike in less than a year after rates were increased 36% on the Turnpike and 27% on the Parkway in September.

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State Sen. Jim Holzapfel, R-Ocean, called the toll hike "a disgrace," and lambasted the "bureaucrats at the Turnpike Authority" for authorizing automatic toll increases.

Holzapfel joins with Senator Nia Gill, D-Essex, in sponsoring a bill that would limit the Turnpike Authority to an automatic toll hike no more than every three years. Before a change in procedure, and toll hikes would be subject to public hearings and a an actual public vote by members of the Turnpike Authority Board. That is no longer the case.

Assemblymen Greg McGuckin, R-Ocean, called the toll hikes a "sneak attack" on New Jersey drivers. He and fellow Ocean Assemblyman John Catalano plan to introduce another bill that would roll back the current toll rates by 50 cents, and keep them at the lower rate for three years.

McGuckin said in a news release, the toll hikes are "an insult to every driver, and an assault on the wallets of working families everywhere, especially those who live in coastal communities who commute to work every day on toll roads.”

While it is likely that Gill and Holzapfel's bill will win approval by the end of the current legislative session (Jan. 11), it is far less certain that the bill offering a discount on the current toll rates will pass and be signed by Gov. Phil Murphy.

Toll revenue plunged during the pandemic shutdowns when few people were commuting and/or traveling for leisure. While traffic volume is returning to pre-pandemic levels, the Turnpike Authority has defended the toll hikes as a means to pay for ongoing road improvements and capital projects.

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