The nation's largest auto club says tolls are increasingly being diverted to pay for transportation projects and other expenses unrelated to roadways, bridges and tunnels used by the motorists who pay the fees.

NJ Turnpike

Chris Plaushin, director of federal relations for AAA, told a Senate committee hearing Wednesday that diversion of tolls for unrelated projects undermines the "user pays" principle behind transportation tolls and weakens public support for them.

A bill introduced by New Jersey Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg would give the secretary of transportation the power to reject toll increases on highways, bridges and tunnels that receive federal aid if they are judged to be excessive.

The hearing was prompted by significant toll hikes approved last year by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

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