Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Let them eat doughnuts

New Jersey Transportation Commissioner Kris Kolluri says that increasing the toll rates on the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway in 2009 will cost the average highway user less than half the price of a strawberry doughnut.

Speaking at a public hearing on proposed toll increases for two of the nation’s busiest toll roads, Kolluri compared the increase to a doughnut he recently bought for his daughter.

“If we are willing as a society to pay $1.06 for one strawberry doughnut, I think it makes sense that we could ask ourselves to pay 50 cents more over 15 years to keep our bridges safe,” Kolluri stated at a hearing Sept. 23 at Camden County Community College.

His comments upset many of the 120 people present, local media reported.

If approved, toll rates on the turnpike and parkway would increase 50 percent in 2009, another 50 percent in 2012, and 10 percent in 2023 for heavy trucks as well as passenger vehicles. On the turnpike, truck tolls could increase from the current $26.55 for the entire length to $65.75 by 2023.

Kolluri is trying his best to sugarcoat the issue, but no amount of icing – strawberry or otherwise – can coat the bitter pill that commuters and truckers will have to swallow if these increases are approved.

Incidentally, the state paid Kolluri $140,740 in 2007, the equivalent of 132,773 strawberry doughnuts.

We’d like to send him a baker’s dozen. Razzberry flavor.

Editor’s note: The turnpike authority has called an additional hearing on possible changes to their increase proposal. The hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m. to noon, Friday, Oct. 10, at authority headquarters, 581 Main St., Woodbridge, NJ 07095.