"New Jersey taxpayers … will now face the highest tolls in the country."

Steve Lonegan on Tuesday, December 27th, 2011 in an email newsletter

Steve Lonegan says with New Year’s Day toll hike, New Jersey motorists face most expensive tolls in the U.S.

New Jersey motorists may be fuming over the New Year’s Day toll hikes. But a conservative activist has a case for serious road rage: he claims New Jersey now has the most expensive tolls in the country.

Steve Lonegan, director of Americans for Prosperity’s New Jersey chapter, railed against the Jan. 1 toll increase in a newsletter last week.

"Did You Know? Tolls on the New Jersey Turnpike, Garden State Parkway, & Atlantic City Expressway Are Set to Go Up 50% on Jan. 1!" the headline on Lonegan’s Dec. 27 email newsletter said.

Further down, he wrote: "New Jersey taxpayers, the most over-burdened in the nation, will now face the highest tolls in the country with no noticeable improvement in service."

First, tolls are not increasing on the Expressway. But residents are forking over 50 percent more to drive on the Parkway and 53 percent more to drive on the Turnpike. Are those tolls now the highest in the country?

That’s one claim to fame New Jersey doesn’t have.

The state isn’t top in the country by cost per mile -- a measure several experts said was more significant --  or actual toll prices, according to statistical comparisons.

Driving the full span of the Parkway in a passenger car paying cash or E-ZPass now costs $8.25, up from $5.50. A start-to-finish trip for a car paying cash on the Turnpike goes for $13.85 now, up from $9.05.

Compare that to $35.55 for a trip from Ohio to New Jersey on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. That’s a cost of more than nine cents per mile -- more than the Parkway, but less than the Turnpike.

An analysis conducted for the New Jersey Turnpike Authority by Wilbur Smith Associates, a transportation and infrastructure consulting firm, shows the cost per mile on the Parkway for a car paying cash is now 4.8 cents, up from 3.2 cents. The Turnpike would cost the same motorist 11.3 cents per mile, up from 7.4 cents.

Still, there are more than a dozen other roads that charge more than both the Parkway and Turnpike, according to the same analysis.

Motorists on Route 73 in California pay 38.3 cents per mile, the Dulles Greenway in Virginia costs drivers 34.3 cents per mile and E-470 in Colorado will set you back 33.4 cents per mile

"It seems to me that while the rates for NJ may seem high compared to their past rates – they are nowhere near ‘the highest tolls in the country,’" Neil Gray, the director of government affairs for the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association, an association that aims to advance toll financed transportation, said in an email.

"It’s ridiculous to say that they’re going to be the highest in the country," said Peter Samuel, editor of the trade publication Toll Roads News.

Steve Carrellas, the New Jersey representative of the National Motorists Association, which opposes tolls, said, "they’re not the highest."

Lonegan conceded that the per-mile cost on New Jersey’s toll roads aren’t the highest in the country. But he argued New Jersey drivers face the highest toll burden in the country.

Motorists have alternatives to "boutique" toll roads in other areas, while drivers in New Jersey are forced to rely on the Parkway and Turnpike, Lonegan said.

For a driver heading south from Lonegan's hometown of Bogota, he said "it’s not even practical to think that you are going to take 1&9 to Atlantic City."  

"It’s not as cut and dry as saying the cost per mile," he said. "We are very much trapped into using these roads."

Our ruling

With a toll hike on the Parkway and Turnpike, New Jersey now has "the highest tolls in the country," according to Lonegan.

Lonegan argued that New Jersey’s toll burden is greater than the rest of the country. But he said "highest tolls" in his newsletter and there are other roads charging more per mile for drivers to head out on the highway.

We rate the claim False.

To comment on this ruling, go to NJ.com.