Drivers are forced to payer higher tolls from time to time and that’s just a fact of life.

Toms River tolls (NJ DOT)

The Port Authority approved a four-year phased-in toll increase on Hudson River crossings in 2011 after one public hearing. The last step of the increase goes into effect Dec. 6, 2015.

Testifying before the Senate Legislative Oversight Committee exploring Port Authority reforms, Tracy Noble, AAA Mid-Atlantic manager of Public and Government Affairs said perhaps toll hikes should come with strings attached.

A variety of efforts have been made to create the changes necessary to bring accountability and transparency to the Port Authority, but they’ve had little impact Noble said before presenting her idea which she conceded was simply a good starting point.

“New transportation projects must ensure that the system significantly enhances safety, mobility, and reliability to provide an appropriate return on investment to motorists who will continue to pay most of the costs,” said Noble, explaining portions of the Bill of Rights of New Jersey’s toll payers. “Transportation agencies must demonstrate to the public that transportation resources are managed wisely and efficiently.”

Over the last several years, it has become very clear that increased transparency is needed at the agency and it must balance the needs of commuters from two states, Noble said.

“Motorists and commuters must receive direct and recognizable improvements to their travel experience if they are asked to pay more and revenues and fees generated from taxes, fees, and other pricing mechanisms paid by motorists must be dedicated solely to meeting identified transportation needs and protected from diversion to other uses,” she said as she detailed other suggested other toll payer protection provisions.

SLO chairman State Sen. Bob Gordon (D-Fair Lawn) asked Noble if it was fair to say AAA believes that the priority of the Port Authority should be solely the development of transportation projects.

“That is correct. We believe that our commuters and our toll payers and our motorists adequate transportation that that’s where the funds should be directed,” she answered.

Other toll payers’ Bill of Rights ideas included:

  • Public-private partnerships to increase transportation investments must be carefully managed to ensure that motorist fees are fair and equitable.
  • Revenues resulting from the sale or lease of publicly owned transportation facilities must be used only for transportation purposes and compensate the public for the value of the facility.
  • All tolling agencies should be required to be open and transparent, including but not limited to the open records laws of all states that they serve.

Kevin McArdle has covered the State House for New Jersey 101.5 news since 2002. Contact him at Follow him on Twitter at @kevinmcardle1