Four snowstorms and a hurricane kept drivers off the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway this year and led the toll highways to report revenue through October fell $47.1 million below forecasts.
The New Jersey Turnpike Authority collected $943 million in revenue in the first 10 months of 2011, about 5 percent less than its target of $990 million. The October snowstorm that blanketed much of the U.S. Northeast cost $1 million in New Jersey toll revenue. Unemployment and high gasoline prices also deterred motorists, the authority said in a report today.
“The situation is not dire, we have enough money to meet all of our obligations,’ said Transportation Commissioner James Simpson, chairman of the Turnpike Authority’s board, at a meeting in Woodbridge. ‘‘If this carries itself out for the next four or five years it gets to be a lot of money.”
The 148-mile (238-kilometer) New Jersey Turnpike and 173- mile Garden State Parkway are the main north-south routes through New Jersey, the most densely populated U.S. state. Tolls are set to rise in January by 53 percent on the Turnpike and 50 percent on the Parkway, under a plan approved in 2008.
Traffic through October was down 1.3 percent from the same period of 2010 on the Turnpike, while the Parkway had a 1.9 percent drop in toll transactions, the report said.
New Jersey’s average price for regular gasoline is $3.20 a gallon, up from $2.87 a year ago, according to the American Automobile Association’s Fuel Gauge Report.
The Turnpike Authority has been able to trim expenses as a weak construction market pushes down capital costs and it reduces staff by 140 positions through attrition by next year, said Veronique Hakim, executive director of the agency.
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