For area commuters, the discounted rides may be over

| 21 Feb 2012 | 10:52

    SUSSEX COUNTY-New Jersey Turnpike officials are considering a plan to scrap some E-ZPass discounts, a selling point for the electronic toll system, so they can borrow more money for highway improvements without paying higher interest rates. Motorists were invited to comment at a hearing at New Jersey Turnpike Authority headquarters on Monday. Acting Gov. Richard J. Codey, who has veto power over authority actions, will wait for a recommendation from the authority's chairman before taking a position, Codey spokeswoman Kelley Heck told The Star-Ledger of Newark for Monday's newspapers. The chairman, Joseph Simunovich, will make a recommendation after hearing comments, Turnpike spokesman Joseph Orlando said. Turnpike commissioners may vote on scrapping the discount at their Dec. 21 meeting. Under the plan, E-ZPass users would no longer get a 15 percent discount on rush hour and weekend tolls. Drivers with E-ZPass would still get a discount for off-peak use. For example, a trip from interchange 9 in East Brunswick to interchange 14 in Newark now costs a car driver without E-ZPass $2.05. The E-ZPass user pays $1.70 during rush hours and weekends, and $1.50 at off-peak hours. Some motorists say the convenience of E-ZPass is worth the extra expense, but others do not want to spend more. If approved, the increase would take effect Jan. 1, 2006 and raise $17 million in additional tolls a year. The proposal follows toll increases in 2000 and 2003, which helped pay for highway projects. The authority expects a $15.2 million surplus in its 2004 budget. It also is to save more than $100 million over the next decade because of its merger with the agency that operates the Garden State Parkway.