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The news might have hit motorists like a rock smacking against a windshield, but the recent toll increases on the New Jersey Turnpike and the Garden State Parkway should not come as a complete surprise.
They were approved more than three years ago.
Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, has reminded listeners of that history during various radio interviews in recent weeks. During a Dec. 23 interview with WFAN’s Boomer Esiason and Craig Carton, the governor corrected Carton when the co-host said Christie was raising tolls by 50 percent.
"Oh, and by the way, I’m not raising tolls 50 percent," Christie said.
Carton asked, "Who is?"
"Jon Corzine did," the governor responded.
PolitiFact New Jersey found that Christie has his facts straight.
The toll hikes, which took effect New Year’s Day, represent the second phase of a two-part rate increase approved by the New Jersey Turnpike Authority in October 2008 under then-Gov. Jon Corzine. A Democrat, Corzine, signed off on the plan.
The first phase of the toll hikes began on Dec. 1, 2008 with 40 percent and 43 percent increases on the Turnpike and the Parkway, respectively. The second phase represents a 53 percent hike on the Turnpike and a 50 percent increase on the Parkway.
The toll increase was initially scheduled to support a $1.25 billion contribution to a Hudson River commuter train tunnel project, known as Access to the Region's Core, or ARC. But citing potential cost overruns, Christie terminated the project in October 2010.
In September, the turnpike authority agreed to redirect $975 million from the canceled tunnel to local road and bridge projects. Those projects are part of a five-year capital plan unveiled by Christie earlier this year.
The increased toll revenue also is going toward the authority’s $7 billion capital program, which includes a Turnpike widening project between exits 6 and 9.
In a radio interview, Christie directed blame for the new toll hikes to his predecessor, claiming "I'm not raising tolls 50 percent....Jon Corzine did."
The governor’s planning to spend the money, but he didn’t raise the tolls. With Corzine’s approval, the New Jersey Turnpike Authority approved the two-phase toll increase in October 2008.
We rate the statement True.
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CBS New York, Gov. Chris Christie On WFAN: Perhaps No VP Run, But GO JETS!, Dec. 23, 2011
The Star-Ledger, Parkway, Turnpike commuters brace for 50 percent increases, Dec. 18, 2011
New Jersey Turnpike Authority, Minutes of Sept. 7, 2011 meeting
New Jersey Turnpike Authority, Minutes of Oct. 10, 2008 meeting
New Jersey Turnpike Authority, Fact sheet on toll hikes, accessed Dec. 28, 2011
New Jersey Governor’s Office, Governor Christie Puts Forward Responsible Transportation Capital Plan That Reduces Borrowing and Improves Critical Infrastructure, Jan. 6, 2011
The Star-Ledger, Gov. Christie plans to use ARC tunnel money to pay for repairs to N.J. bridges, roads, Jan. 7, 2011
The Star-Ledger, N.J. transportation budget proposal shows remnants of canceled ARC tunnel project, March 25, 2011
The Star-Ledger, N.J. Turnpike Authority to redirect $1.25B from scrapped ARC tunnel to local road, bridge projects, Sept. 7, 2011
Bloomberg, New Jersey Turnpike Authority Approves Highway Toll Increases, Oct. 10, 2008
Email interview with Tom Feeney, spokesman for the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, Dec. 29-30, 2011
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