Codey weighs selling highway to boost transit fund
Friday, June 10, 2005
BY JOE MALINCONICO
Acting Gov. Richard Codey is
considering the possibility of selling or leasing the state's toll roads
to raise money to solve New Jersey's transportation funding crisis,
said his spokeswoman, Kelley Heck.
Officials said the governor is hoping that revenue from selling the New Jersey
Turnpike or Garden State Parkway would offset the need for an increase
in the state's gasoline tax.
Codey initially raised the idea of selling the Turnpike back in January
as a way to balance the state budget. In February, he changed his mind
somewhat, saying the proceeds from privatizing the roads might be used
to replenish the Transportation Trust Fund, which pays for large
highway and mass transit projects.
Since then, the Codey administration has not moved forward with
any detailed financial or legal analysis on selling the toll roads,
"This is just a preliminary stage," Heck said. "It's too early, too
Heck said an in-depth review of the
idea would begin sometime after passage of the state budget,
which is due June 30.
"The idea has been discussed," said Marc LaVorgna, a spokesman for the
state transportation department. "It's one of many options that will be
By next June, the Transportation Trust
Fund will run out of money for new projects, with all its money going
to pay off its escalating debt. In order to sell the toll roads
to raise money for the fund, state officials would need to deal with
several key issues.
First, the purchase price would have
to cover the Turnpike's current debt, which is about $5 billion.
It also would have to generate enough money to pay for $1.5 billion in
widening projects Codey is planning for the Turnpike and Parkway.
Moreover, there would have to be enough money for the ongoing operation
of the toll roads.
Finally, the privatization would have to produce enough money to
replenish the trust fund, which cranks out more than $1 billion in
highway and mass transit projects per year.
Last year, officials in Illinois
reaped $1.8 billion by leasing the Chicago Skyway. That deal
imposes limits on how much the private company can raise the tolls.