Bill To Provide South Jersey with Stronger Voice in Turnpike Authority Decisions Advances : News Room : The Van Drew Team for Change : Jeff Van Drew, Bob Andrzejczak and Bruce Land
Bill To Provide South Jersey with Stronger Voice in Turnpike Authority Decisions Advances
TRENTON — Legislation sponsored by Senator Jeff Van Drew to require representation on the Turnpike Authority board from South Jersey, as well as other regions of the state, was approved Nov. 3 by the Senate Transportation Committee. The New Jersey Turnpike Authority operates the Garden State Parkway, a main artery in the southern part of the state.
“There is a need for South Jersey to have a stronger voice in Turnpike Authority decisions, particularly when they deal with the Garden State Parkway,” said Senator Van Drew (D-Cape May/Cumberland/Atlantic). “By requiring representation on the board from our region, we will better ensure that local concerns are aired before final decisions are made on matters that affect South Jersey. This will also help to make sure our toll dollars are spent wisely and in the best interest of our residents.”
The bill (S-1674) would require representation on the Turnpike Authority board by all regions of the state, including that at least one of the seven appointed members be from the counties of Ocean, Atlantic or Cape May. The current board is comprised of seven public members appointed by the governor, five with advice and consent of the Senate and one each recommended by the Senate President and Assembly Speaker; the Commissioner of Transportation is the eighth member and serves ex officio. The bill would also require membership to include: at least one resident of Burlington County, Camden County, Gloucester County, or Salem County; at least one resident of Mercer County, Middlesex County, or Monmouth County; and at least one resident of Bergen County, Essex County, Hudson County, Union County, or Passaic County.
Senator Van Drew is also the sponsor of a second bill (S-1675) approved by the Senate in June, to improve local public access to New Jersey Turnpike Authority meetings by requiring that at least two regular monthly meetings each year be held in Atlantic, Cape May or Ocean counties. The bill also requires that no fewer than one regular meeting of the authority be held in the area comprising Salem, Gloucester, and Camden counties.
Senator Van Drew sponsored the bills after two major projects authorized by the Turnpike Authority caused significant concern among local residents and public officials in the Southern region of the state. In 2011, the authority conducted a mass tree-clearing project along the Garden State Parkway, causing concern from residents about the dramatic change to their community’s landscape as well as with reforestation due to the over-clearing of trees. A second project included the installation of what appeared to be low-security fencing, which the authority said was for homeland security purposes. Senator Van Drew was successful in having it removed after challenging its effectiveness.
The committee approved the bill by a vote of 5-0. It next goes to the full Senate for consideration.