(The Center Square) — New Jersey commuters will be digging deeper into their pockets to drive on the state’s roadways, with the state’s Turnpike Authority approving across-the-board toll increases.
The authority’s board of commissioners unanimously approved a $2.6 billion 2024 budget on Tuesday, which included a 3% toll increase for the New Jersey Turnpike and the Garden State Parkway.
Murphy will sign the Turnpike’s 2024 budget, including the toll hikes, according to a spokeswoman, several months after vetoing a similar proposal.
“By responsibly investing in the maintenance of our state’s highways and mass transit, we are continuing to prioritize the safety and mobility of all New Jersey residents and commuters,” Murphy spokeswoman Bailey Lawrence said in a statement.
The increase, which goes into effect on March 1, will drive up tolls by an average of 15 cents on the turnpike and 5 cents on the parkway, according to Turnpike officials.
For Murphy, approval of the higher tolls is a sharp reversal for the lame-duck governor, who previously objected to a similar budget proposal by the transit agency.
In October, Murphy used a parliamentary move to reject the plan by vetoing the Turnpike Authority’s meeting minutes that included the toll hike proposals.
Under state law, Murphy can veto the budget because he appoints most board members, including the chairperson, and can unilaterally overturn board actions. In 2019, he vetoed the minutes of the Delaware River and Bay Authority, putting the brakes on a $1 toll hike for the Delaware Memorial Bridge.
It’s unclear why Murphy changed his mind on the latest spending plan, and his statement didn’t explain what the commission did to address the governor’s concerns.
The Turnpike Authority’s previous budget proposal called for a $100 million increase in spending from the previous year and adding more than 40 new employees to the state agency.
The proposed toll hikes, which were previously set to take effect in January, will be the fourth increase since 2000, officials said.
They will go into effect along with new higher fares for the New Jersey Transit Authority, which recently announced a 15% systemwide fare hike will take effect on July 1, the first increase since 2015.
Meanwhile, New Jersey commuters to New York will soon be charged a new toll once the city’s “congestion” pricing plan goes into effect this year — charging a $15 fee for entering Manhattan below 60th Street.
Republicans blasted the toll increases and accused Murphy of playing political games by vetoing them ahead of the fall elections but later reversing course.
“Toll increases will be the latest broken promise by Governor Murphy and fellow Trenton Democrats,” Senate Minority Leader Anthony Bucco said in a statement. “Democrats continue to talk about affordability to entice hardworking New Jerseyans for their vote and then stick them with the bill for their failing policies and budget mismanagement.”