Would Require at Least One Member of NJ Turnpike Authority From Atlantic, Cape May or Ocean County
Legislation sponsored by Senators Jeff Van Drew and Chris Connors aimed at providing South Jersey with a stronger voice in the decisions made by the New Jersey Turnpike Authority which operates the Garden State Parkway, a main artery in the southern part of the state, was approved today by the Senate Transportation Committee.
The bill (S-1654) would require that at least one of the seven appointed members of the Turnpike Authority be from the counties of Ocean, Atlantic or Cape May. The senators’ introduction of the measure followed two major projects authorized by the Turnpike Authority that caused significant concern among local residents and public officials in the Southern region of the state. One included the mass cutting of trees along the Garden State Parkway. The other was the installation of security fencing along the parkway, which the authority said was for homeland security purposes.
“These events demonstrated the real need for our region to have a stronger voice in Turnpike Authority decisions,” said Senator Van Drew (D-Cape May/Cumberland/Atlantic). “Having representation on the board from one of our local counties will ensure that at least one individual who is familiar with the region is at the table when issues are discussed that directly affect South Jersey. This will better ensure that our toll dollars are spent wisely and in the best interest of our residents.”
“The interests of my constituency and that of all South Jersey residents would be better served by having at least one representative of the Turnpike Authority Board be a resident from the southern end of the state,” said Senator Connors (R-Atlantic, Burlington, Ocean). “Recently, I along with my 9th District colleagues, Assemblyman Brian Rumpf and Assemblywoman DiAnne Gove, held a town hall meeting in Galloway Township during which several issues concerning the Turnpike Authority were raised by local residents. Strong support was expressed for the bipartisan legislative initiatives that the 9th District Delegation has sponsored with Senator Van Drew to provide residents with a stronger voice in decisions affecting roadways used regularly by local residents.”
The current board is comprised of seven public members appointed by the governor, five with advice and consent of the Senate and one each recommended by the Senate President and Assembly Speaker; the Commissioner of Transportation is the eighth member and serves ex officio. The current board does not include a single representative from South Jersey. The members are from Monmouth, Mercer, Middlesex and Bergen counties. Currently, one seat on the board is vacant. Both senators have requested the governor appoint an individual from Atlantic, Cape May or Ocean counties; 100 miles of the parkway, more than half of the entire stretch of the roadway, are within the three counties.
The senators are also sponsoring legislation to improve local public access to the Turnpike Authority meetings by requiring that at least two regular monthly meetings each year be held in Atlantic, Cape May or Ocean counties. Under the bill (S-1686), meetings held locally would rotate among the three counties. Under the current structure, meetings are held on a monthly basis in Woodbridge, Middlesex County.
The legislation (S-1654) which would require local representation on the board was approved by a vote of 4-0-1. It now heads to the full Senate for a vote.