“ENOUGH IS ENOUGH”: Ocean County Commissioners Blast New Jersey’s Constantly Increasing Gas Tax And Tolls

With increases looming for the state gas tax and tolls and transit fares going up, the Ocean County Board of Commissioners say enough is enough as commuters and motorists can’t continue to absorb the burden of higher taxes and fees.

“The increase in the gas tax has not been signed by the Governor yet,” said Ocean County Commissioner Frank Sadeghi. “The gas tax which was 14.5 cents in 2016 and increased to 37 cents a year later will now be increased by the state to 50 cents.

“I wouldn’t have an objection to this if it came back to Ocean County to repair our roads and bridges,” he said. “But the money is going up north and we are a commuter county.”

The commissioners, as they have done in the past, plan on sending a resolution to Trenton urging the state to reconsider the increase in the gas tax.

Sadeghi noted motorists have also experienced a 3 percent increase in tolls on the Garden State Parkway and a 15 percent fare hike for N.J. Transit riders.

“If they are going to charge us more, this is a great opportunity for us to ask the state for additional money and get some attention for the roads in Ocean County,” Sadeghi said.

Director of the Ocean County Board of Commissioners Barbara Jo Crea said these increases also affect the county’s large senior citizen population, many of whom live on fixed incomes.

“We do not have a large public transit system in Ocean County so our residents need to rely on their cars to get from one place to the other,” Crea said. “Having to pay more for gas, for tolls and also transit fares poses a financial burden for many residents that are already living pay check to pay check.”

While the increase in the gas tax is expected to fund the state’s Transportation Trust Fund, the commissioners expressed their collective frustration that money collected from Ocean County residents often goes to other areas of the state and what is returned here is limited.

“This increase is yet another inflationary item that makes it more difficult for people to afford their monthly bills,” said the Board’s Deputy Director Gary Quinn.

Ocean County Commissioner John P. Kelly, liaison to the Ocean County Engineering Department and Road Department, said the County is always looking at ways to improve its road network.

For example, the County has been making efforts to get improvements to Route 9 – a state highway that runs the length of the County – for years.

“But more than just Route 9, we talk about all of the roads throughout the County,” Kelly said. “We also are looking to address flooding problems that have gotten worse since Superstorm Sandy hit the area in October of 2012.

“We will be developing a county wide plan on this issue,” he said. “We are working on developing the best answers for this.”

Kelly, who serves as chairman of the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority, added that the County will be installing 40 new traffic signals throughout the County.

“We have over 600 miles of County roads and more than 250 bridges and culverts that we maintain,” Kelly said. “It’s one of the largest road networks in the state. It’s imperative we work with the state and do all we can to get our fair share of funding.”

Ocean County Commissioner Virginia E. Haines said the Board does all it can annually to make sure the County appropriates funds to keep its roads safe and well maintained.

“These increases for the gas tax, tolls and transit come from the state of New Jersey,” she said. “It’s making things financially difficult for a lot of people.”

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