By JACQUELINE DURETT
SAYREVILLE — Borough drivers may be watching the day-by-day construction of the new Exit 125 for the Garden State Parkway, but when the exit opens, will they be able to use it?
If they do not have E-ZPass, they will not be able to do so — at least, not without incurring a violation.
Michael D’Addio, chairman of the Sayreville Economic & Redevelopment Agency (SERA) said he found out only last week from John O’Hern, chief operating officer of the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, that drivers who go through the toll but do not have E-ZPass will receive a bill both for the $1.50 toll and a $50 administrative fee.
“Naturally, I am disappointed at this news,” he said.
He pointed out that SERA had no input into how the toll would be set up, and initially was under the impression that an unmanned toll both would be built “and if you didn’t have E-ZPass you would be sent a bill.” That bill would only be for the cost of the toll.
He said similar models work well in other states, such as Florida.
He said he anticipates O’Neill Development Group, which is constructing The Pointe mixed-use development abutting Exit 125, will also be unhappy with the Turnpike Authority’s decision, since as part of the agreement, O’Neill contributed $15 million for the ramp. D’Addio said he had not yet spoken with anyone at O’Neill about the news.
However, he said he does intend to bring up the issue at SERA’s next meeting at 6 p.m. on Jan. 26 and will recommend action.
“I will suggest to the commissioners that we ask for a cash option as well,” he said.
Whether that formal request will have D’Addio’s desired impact is uncertain.
“The Turnpike Authority has to consider the cost of upgrading to a cash option as well as if the space allocated can accommodate the additional lane,” D’Addio said. “They have already spent millions for the ramp and additional toll booth, so it may be tough to get them to spend some more.”
“To me it’s very surprising,” said Councilman Steven Grillo, who was on SERA last year, regarding the Turnpike Authority’s direction regarding the toll.
He added that electronic tolls that can issue bills without violations to those without an E-ZPass-like transponder work in other states, including New York.
“Why are we not utilizing the technology that exists?” he asked.
Grillo said even if it is a small percentage of drivers impacted, the high volume of cars that use Sayreville’s highways and the additional cars that will be generated by The Pointe will unnecessarily tax borough roads as E-ZPass-less drivers look to avoid a violation.