Van Drew Team Bills Provide SJ with Stronger Voice on Turnpike Authority : News Room : The Van Drew Team for Change : Jeff Van Drew, Bob Andrzejczak and Bruce Land
Van Drew Team Bills Provide SJ with Stronger Voice on Turnpike Authority
TRENTON – Two bills sponsored by Senator Jeff Van Drew aimed at providing South Jersey with a stronger voice in decisions made by the New Jersey Turnpike Authority which operates the Garden State Parkway, a main artery in the southern part of the state, were approved today by the Senate Transportation Committee.
“There is a real 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 changing the authority procedures, we will ensure 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 first bill (S-241) 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 second bill (S-243) would improve local public access to the Turnpike Authority meetings by requiring that at least two regular monthly meetings each year be held in Atlantic, Cape May or Ocean counties. Under the bill meetings held locally would rotate among the three counties. The bill would also require that one meeting each year be held in the area comprising Salem, Gloucester, and Camden counties, and one meeting be held in Bergen County. Under the current structure, meetings are held on a monthly basis in Woodbridge, Middlesex County.
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.
“South Jersey residents deserve to have input on transportation and infrastructure projects affecting the region, yet the makeup of the board and the location of meetings does not provide an adequate opportunity for folks in this area to weigh in,” said Senator Van Drew. “This is a fair way to make sure parkway and turnpike issues are vetted by those who are going to be impacted the most.”
The committee approved the bills by a vote of 4-0. They now head to the full Senate for a vote.