By SOPHIE NIETO-MUNOZ
New Jersey Monitor

Driving on New Jersey’s major highways is about to get more expensive.

The state’s two largest toll roads will see a 3% hike starting Jan. 1 under an automatic toll indexing plan approved in 2020 by the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, which said the revenue increase would help fund long-term projects.

Tolls at the Parkway’s main toll booths are expected to increase six cents to $1.96 for passenger vehicles. Tolls are rounded to the closest nickel for drivers paying cash, which means the highest toll will cost those drivers $2. The toll in Toms River will go up an additional 2 cents to 97 cents, or $1 in cash.

Turnpike costs depend on where drivers enter and exit the road. A trip from exit 16W to exit 9 will go up from $8.85 to $9.12. Entering at 7A and exiting at 11 will cost drivers $3.46, up from $3.35.

The 25% discount will continue for E-ZPass customers during off-peak hours (peak hours are between 7 and 9 a.m. and 4:30 and 6:30 p.m.)

The new toll pricing index relies on the consumer price index reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and allows the Turnpike Authority to increase tolls up to 3% annually without public hearings.

The Atlantic City Expressway will also increase tolls by 3%, the South Jersey Transportation Authority said.

State Sen. Nia Gill, whose 34th Legislative District includes Montclair, has introduced a bill that would reduce toll rates by 50 cents and stop the Turnpike Authority from implementing automatic toll increases for three years. The measure, S4276, was introduced Dec. 13 in the Senate and has not yet gone up for a vote in the Senate Transportation Committee.

“I think everybody who commutes on the Turnpike or Garden State Parkway was blindsided by the announcement that tolls would increase for the second time in a little over a year. There was no discussion about it, no public hearings, no transparency. This is a tax on driving,” state Sen. James Holzapfel (R-Ocean), a co-sponsor of the bill, said in a statement.

Drivers last saw a major toll hike in September 2020, when tolls increased by 36% on the Turnpike, 27% on the Parkway, and 37% on the Atlantic City Expressway.

This story is provided by New Jersey Monitor, and originally appeared here