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Coughlin, Wisniewski & Mazzeo Bill to Explore New Revenue Opportunities along State Highways Heads to Gov’s Desk

(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assemblymen Craig Coughlin (D-Middlesex), John Wisniewski (D-Middlesex) and Vincent Mazzeo (D-Atlantic) to explore ways to capitalize on the state’s major highways and generate new state revenue without raising taxes received final legislative approval Monday and now heads to the governor’s desk.

“It’s incumbent upon us to seek creative ways to boost revenue without burdening taxpayers,” said Coughlin. “Our current transportation infrastructure demands that we think outside the box to find new revenue sources to help meet our long-term needs.”

The bill (A-801) would direct the New Jersey Turnpike Authority and the South Jersey Transportation Authority to study and prepare separate reports concerning potential opportunities for increasing current, and generating new revenue by providing additional and higher quality services at rest areas and service plazas along the Turnpike, the Garden State Parkway and the Atlantic City Expressway. The services would include, but not be limited to, business, commercial, or retail services.

“Finding new revenue sources without raising taxes is crucial, particularly in an economy like this,” said Wisniewski. “When you factor in the administration’s decision to divert toll revenue to pay for the Transportation Trust Fund, it becomes even more critical that we explore every avenue to find alternative revenue sources to help fund our crucial transportation needs.”

“Every person who travels these highways is a potential costumer,” said Mazzeo. “Enhancing these services would provide drivers with better shopping choices, while providing an alternative revenue stream that can help us meet our transportation needs without burdening New Jersey residents with another unnecessary tax increase.”

Each study would have to include analyses of best practices at rest areas and service plazas in neighboring states; and whether the authority is maximizing revenues from billboards, mobile communications towers, and other advertising. Under the bill, the reports would have to identify the types of services that may be offered, the types of businesses that may be involved, how the services may be managed, and the role of each authority in offering these new services.

Each authority would have 12 months from the bill’s effective date to submit their reports to the governor and the Legislature.

The sponsors proposed the legislation in response to a recommendation in the report issued by the New Jersey Privatization Task Force in May of 2010, which indicated that there are numerous revenue generating opportunities for the New Jersey Turnpike Authority to explore.

The bill was approved 35-0 by the Senate on Monday, and 75-1-0 by the full Assembly in March.