Toll hikes ease Sandy losses for NJ Turnpike, Parkway

Cars drive up to the Raritan toll plaza northbound on the Garden State Parkway.

January 30, 2013 5:31:05 AM PST
Superstorm Sandy cost the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway about $15 million in revenues last year, though both roadways stayed in the black because of large toll increases implemented last January.

The New Jersey Turnpike Authority released revenue numbers Tuesday that showed traffic decreased on the Turnpike and Parkway last year by more than earlier estimates. Part of that was due to Sandy, which hit the state Oct. 29.

But revenues on both roads increased 45 to 48 percent over 2011, because of toll increases that amounted to 53 percent on the Turnpike and 50 percent on the Parkway.

Those numbers would have been much higher if not for Sandy, the authority said. Total toll revenue was about $10 million ahead of projections before the storm hit. It finished the year about $1.6 million below projections, at just over $1.39 billion.

The authority said Sandy produced a total revenue loss of about $10.2 million for the Turnpike and $4.8 million for the Parkway.

"It was a couple of weeks where people weren't driving places, people were working from home," Authority Chief Financial Officer Donna Manuelli said. "Despite Sandy, we are pleased."

Traffic on the Turnpike decreased 4.3 percent in 2012 compared with 2011, a full percentage point higher than estimates made by the authority's traffic engineering consultants. Parkway traffic fell by 3.1 percent, more than the consultants' 2.2 percent estimate. Turnpike toll revenues were up 47.3 percent, slightly above expectations, while Parkway revenues rose 45.7 percent, below the estimate of 46.9 percent.

Even with Sandy factored in, operating expenses were slightly under budget at $472 million due in part to last year's mild winter, the authority said.

The number of accidents decreased on both roadways in 2012, according to Sean Hill, the authority's director of operations. The Parkway had 7,826 accidents in 2012 compared with 8,335 in 2011, while accidents on the Turnpike fell from 7,311 to 6,213.

Twenty-two people died in accidents on the Parkway last year compared with 38 the year before, continuing what Hill said was a downward trend over the last four years. Fatalities on the Turnpike rose slightly, from 26 to 28.

In other matters, the authority approved a measure to borrow $1.4 billion to continue construction work and to refinance $600 million in existing debt. It marks the third round of borrowing as part of a 10-year, $7 billion capital plan that was authorized in 2008.

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