(New York, NY - Jim O'Grady, WNYC) Pay up.
That's what New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said in a September letter to about 300 state employees who'd been allowed to breeze through tolls for free on seven bridges spanning the Delaware River. The Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission, which is an independent entity and didn't have to make the move, nevertheless voted yesterday to abide by the governor's wishes and eliminate free E-Z Pass privileges for non-work related crossings of the bridges.
The change, which the governor's office says will save $32,000 a year, is scheduled to take affect on May 2.
A statement from Christie says the move will also remove a source of populist resentment: “The granting of free passage to authority Commissioners, officers, employees or retirees, simply by virtue of their current or former employment, sends the wrong message to the toll paying public and represents yet another type of abuse common in New Jersey’s ‘shadow government.’"
The bridge commission joins five other state agencies, including the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, in dropping the perks. The Port Authority announced in November that it would save $1.5 million a year by pulling free passes from its commissioners, retirees and non-union employees hired after 9/11. The Authority said no one from those three groups will have free passes after 2014, when it plans to move into a rebuilt World Trade Center.
The stricter rules come at a time of budget-tightening and after an outcry in 2008 at the widespread use of free passes at transportation agencies in New Jersey and New York.
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