Freeholder Director Vicari calls for EZ-PASS DISCOUNT for Ocean County Drivers

Mon Sep 21 2020 04:00:00 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

Freeholder Director Vicari calls for EZ-PASS Discount for OC Drivers

WITH MOTORISTS facing a devastating one-two punch of toll increases on both the Garden State Parkway and NJ Turnpike, followed two-weeks later by a gasoline tax hike, Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari is renewing his call for an E-Z Pass discount for Ocean County drivers.

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."

Vicari has already contacted Gov. Phil Murphy asking that he suspend the gas tax increase.

Vicari said these rising travel costs are especially unfair in Ocean County, where commuters are forced to rely on their own vehicles to travel to work.

"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."

Vicari pointed to federal census statistics that show more than 82 percent of local commuters use their own private vehicle. Only 2 percent rely of public transportation.

Vicari said the E-Z Pass discount would apply only to private, noncommercial vehicles that travel at least a minimum distance on the toll roads.

"We're focusing on the commuters who pay out of their pocket every day to support their families," he said. "Commercial vehicles and vehicles that use the toll roads only occasionally would not qualify for the discount."

Vicari said the discount amount and details about how many miles would need to be traveled before it takes effect could be worked out by the Turnpike Authority.

"The important thing right now is for the Authority to take this under serious consideration so people will know efforts are being made to help," he said. "People are struggling.

A similar frequent user discount is already in place on the Atlantic City Expressway, which is operated by the South Jersey Transportation Authority, not the New Jersey Turnpike Authority.