By on October 22, 2010

Motorists traveling through New Jersey see $43 million of money paid through tolls wasted on the bureaucracy, according to an audit released Tuesday by the state comptroller. The New Jersey Turnpike Authority is responsible for running the Garden State Parkway and New Jersey Turnpike. Its employees took funds from the continuously increasing tolls and used it to enrich themselves in a number of ways.

“While tolls are going up, the Turnpike Authority is overpaying its employees, overpaying its management, overpaying for its health plan and overpaying for legal services,” State Comptroller A. Matthew Boxer said in a statement.

The most notorious example involved a toll road property inspector who, without violating any laws, pocketed $321,985 in 2008, thanks to lavish payouts and bonuses offered at the tolling authority. Management responsible for reining in such excesses paid themselves $3 million in bonuses through the same system.

“Rather than set an example, management at the Turnpike Authority chose to piggyback off of the generous bonuses and payouts it agreed to provide its employees,” Boxer said.

Those bonuses added up to $30 million throughout the agency — or six percent of operating expenses. The authority’s 2700 full and part time employees are represented by ten labor unions which fought hard to load up their contracts with as lucrative provisions.

Bonuses are paid not based on performance. Rather, they kick in automatically. For example, those who leave the agency after ten years can get a “separation bonus” for quitting. The same individuals had they stayed would have enjoyed a “longevity bonus” boosting their salary by four percent. At fifteen years, the bonus increases to six percent. Toll collectors also received a “bank-out bonus” of up to $1650 if they counted the toll money after collecting it. Working on a holiday or one’s birthday also earned a bonus.

Other perks such as free rides on the toll road and spending $12,000 to sponsor an employee bowling league represent the culture of waste present at the authority, even if the cost is comparatively low. The authority could have also have saved $8.8 million had it simply participated in the state health benefit plan instead of running its own.

Unfortunately for the authority’s labor unions, all ten union contracts expire in 2011. Governor Chris Christie (R) has made slashing the excessive benefits found in state employee union collective bargaining agreements to be one of the top priorities of his administration. So far Christie has taken the unusual step of vetoing minutes of the meetings of various toll road authorities. The veto prevented a resolution that would have given free rides on the toll road to all employees. Christie also ordered on Tuesday that the state transportation authority eliminate annual payout for unused sick and vacation time.

[Courtesy:Thenewspaper.com]

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

31 Comments on “New Jersey Toll Roads Waste $43 Million in Driver Cash...”


  • avatar
    mdensch

    The only thing surprising about this is that anyone would be surprised by this.

    • 0 avatar
      charly

      What i read is normal workers compensation. So you get a pay increase if you work there for a number of year. At what company is that not true? “bank-out bonus” sounds like an expect-to-be-robbed bonus. Which employer doesn’t have a “bowling league” slush fund?
       
      Personally i don’t like the system were the workers get a paycheck with a thousand bonuses, but that doesn’t mean that those bonuses are waste but just part of the compensation package.
       
      ps. The only peculiar bonus is the birthday bonus.

  • avatar
    blue adidas

    This is no surprise. Everything is all f-ed up in Dirty Jerz. It’s a twisted and backward place.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    This ought not to surprise anyone.  User fees and micro-level taxation always waste money in administrativia. Or, to put it this way: it’s much cheaper to administer a single, flat federal gas tax (or sales tax, or whatever) than it would be to set up and maintain hundred (or thousands, or tens of thousands) of separate toll and tax regimes.
     
    It’s also the reason why American health care is so expensive for what you get.  Instead of single-payer, single-insurer, you have all sorts of middle-men.

    Yeah, that’s right, I said “Health Care”. I’ll bring up Global Warming next, just you watch me!

    • 0 avatar
      92golf

      Live dangerously!!

    • 0 avatar
      TrailerTrash

      YES! Flat tax!
      But good luck with that.  Do you understand the power of the bureaucracy embedded in the current system?
      What would they do without all the bait and switch?
      Oh, the lawyers without jobs!

      Time for a revolution yet?
      Feeling a little overwhelmed, powerless and unrepresented?

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      We already have a federal motor fuels tax – it is supposed to fund the federal portion of the interstate highway system. It is a flat tax. Each state then levies its own tax or fees because it uses those revenues to pay for its local transportation needs. What is needed in New Jersey is not the same as what is needed in California or Wyoming.

      And, as has been shown numerous times, the American health care system is actually superior in many ways to those single-payer systems (infant mortality rates, for example – the figures usually cited to show that the U.S. lags have been found to be worthless because of different ways of measuring the results from country to country). That probably isn’t a good example to bring up in this type of discussion.

    • 0 avatar
      jimble

      @geeber — Citations, please? I haven’t seen any stats that would support what you’re saying about infant mortality in the US health care system, but I can’t claim to have read everything on the subject.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      Here is an excerpt from an article in U.S. News & World Reports:

      First, it’s shaky ground to compare U.S. infant mortality with reports from other countries. The United States counts all births as live if they show any sign of life, regardless of prematurity or size. This includes what many other countries report as stillbirths. In Austria and Germany, fetal weight must be at least 500 grams (1 pound) to count as a live birth; in other parts of Europe, such as Switzerland, the fetus must be at least 30 centimeters (12 inches) long. In Belgium and France, births at less than 26 weeks of pregnancy are registered as lifeless. And some countries don’t reliably register babies who die within the first 24 hours of birth. Thus, the United States is sure to report higher infant mortality rates. For this very reason, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which collects the European numbers, warns of head-to-head comparisons by country.

      Infant mortality in developed countries is not about healthy babies dying of treatable conditions as in the past. Most of the infants we lose today are born critically ill, and 40 percent die within the first day of life. The major causes are low birth weight and prematurity, and congenital malformations. As Nicholas Eberstadt, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, points out, Norway, which has one of the lowest infant mortality rates, shows no better infant survival than the United States when you factor in weight at birth.

    • 0 avatar
      cardeveloper

      Health care, someone mention the best health care in the world, even if it is 4x per capita more expensive than the next closest nation.  read the stats and weep http://www.nationmaster.com/cat/hea-health

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      Here is an excerpt from an article in U.S. News & World Reports:

      First, it’s shaky ground to compare U.S. infant mortality with reports from other countries. The United States counts all births as live if they show any sign of life, regardless of prematurity or size. This includes what many other countries report as stillbirths. In Austria and Germany, fetal weight must be at least 500 grams (1 pound) to count as a live birth; in other parts of Europe, such as Switzerland, the fetus must be at least 30 centimeters (12 inches) long. In Belgium and France, births at less than 26 weeks of pregnancy are registered as lifeless. And some countries don’t reliably register babies who die within the first 24 hours of birth. Thus, the United States is sure to report higher infant mortality rates. For this very reason, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which collects the European numbers, warns of head-to-head comparisons by country.

      Infant mortality in developed countries is not about healthy babies dying of treatable conditions as in the past. Most of the infants we lose today are born critically ill, and 40 percent die within the first day of life. The major causes are low birth weight and prematurity, and congenital malformations. As Nicholas Eberstadt, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, points out, Norway, which has one of the lowest infant mortality rates, shows no better infant survival than the United States when you factor in weight at birth.
       

    • 0 avatar
      aspade

      When the federal government does transportation projects (or any other for that matter) a vastly disproportionate share of money invariably goes to the district of whoever it is that has seniority at the moment.  The 20 billion dollar big dig is in the district of both the 3rd longest serving senator in US history and the then speaker of the house.  It’s literally called the Tip O’Neill tunnel.  The 400 million dollar bridge to nowhere, a nowhere represented by Ted Stevens for 39 years straight.  The 8 billion of “nation wide high speed rail” grants awarded earlier this year, more than half of which is going to projects in the bay area (speaker of the house) and Chicago (duh).
       
      Politics being what it is this works exactly the same way at the state and local level.  But I could at least conceivably benefit from a pork project on the other side of town or a few hours away in the same state.  2000 miles away in a state I have never set foot in and never will, not so much.  Federalizing is not an answer.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      As shown, the infant mortality rates are skewed, and are not a true measure of the effectiveness of a nation’s health care system. Neither are mortality rates, which are affected as much by lifestyle factors and demographic make-up as anything else.

      The better measure of a health care system is the survival rate after diagnosis with a serious disease or condition, and the U.S. ranks at or near the top for those measures. In the U.S., for example, someone suffering from a stroke or cancer is more likely to be treated with advanced drugs and procedures than someone in Europe.

  • avatar
    Contrarian

    Next let’s do a deep dive into the NY Thruway Authority. I’ve seen guys cutting the grass around an exit one day, and then cutting the same area the next day – presumably with the blades set one notch lower. Or it takes them 3 weeks to replace a 50 foot length of concrete at the toll booths.

    • 0 avatar
      210delray

      I’ve seen guys cutting the grass around an exit one day, and then cutting the same area the next day – presumably with the blades set one notch lower.

      Ha, sounds like my lawn-crazy obsessed neighbors across the cul-de-sac.  Except they’ll do the second cut on the SAME day!

  • avatar
    Lexingtonian

    Millions wasted on the bureaucracy, and how many millions spent just getting the tolling system up and running in the first place?

    All because raising the tax on gas is such a politically loaded topic.

    Just raise the damn tax on gas.  It’s simpler, cheaper (since you don’t have to build or maintain tolling stations), and doesn’t empower more government bureaucrats.  And since there’s a correlation between vehicle weight and fuel consumption, it even at least approximates greater cost for greater damage to the roads, and has a built-in incentive for fuel-efficient vehicles!

    But no, because “taxes” are evil and “tolls” less so, it’s easier to waste millions to set up and run such a system and get less out of it and build more
    bureaucracy to manage it.

    Just raise the damn gas tax.

    • 0 avatar
      bunkie

      +1 Not to mention the traffic tieups resulting from the practice of collecting tolls. Or the fact that the toll booth has become the modern equivalent of “show me your paperz, pleez” where the cops don’t even have to stop you, you do it for them.  The New York-New Jersey Port authority (who run the Hudson River crossings in NYC) have elevated this to a fine art.  I’m scrupulous about keeping everything current (registration, inspection, etc.) and I still get the nasty feeling that a wrong word or look could get me pulled over for “further inspection” every time I cross a bridge. 

    • 0 avatar

      I’d support doubling the federal tax on gas, tripling it on diesel and indexing it to construction cost inflation in exchange for eliminating all bridge and road tolls.
      Damage to the road increases as a cube of the weight.
      The F350 (10k lbs) is only marginally worse for the road than a Focus.  Its the east coast spec’ 70k lbs 35ft long quad axle dump trucks that wear out the road, our roads would last for half a century without truck traffic.

  • avatar
    NN

    Good on Mr. Christie.  If he succeeds in his battles in NJ, people will be clamoring for him to repeat his tricks on the federal level.
    I also agree re: a higher (federal or state) gas tax to pay for infrastructure and roadways, and get rid of tolls–as long as it is administered properly.  Make it a tax that scales in over a 5 year period so those upset about paying higher taxes have some time to plan for a more fuel efficient choice on their next vehicle.  Couple it with immediate allocation of the funds towards visible infrastructure needs to win over the public’s skepticism.  I think that a rational gas tax raise would actually be the only kind of tax raise that the American public could possibly accept during these times.  On all other fronts that I can think of, government needs to be cut, bureaucracy and regulations eased.  But the politicians don’t have the balls, either that or they don’t have much faith in the intelligence of the public (which I kind of understand).

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    I’ve lived in New Jersey now for six years. Stuff like this is “normal” here. This $42 million bit barely scratches the surface. Corruption in government agencies is normal. It doesn’t appear “corrupt” to locals, though. That’s what makes it weird. F’rinstance, it’s an election year for my county administrator. At “electronics recycling day,” he was handing out eco-friendly cloth bags with his name on them. Two days later, there’s a picture of him in the paper getting ready to hand out curbside recycling buckets. Of course they had his name on ’em.
    There’s nothing like using your taxpaupers’ money for buying your re-election tchotchkes.

  • avatar
    210delray

    All I can say is that as a regular traveler through NJ to visit my children and granddaughter in NYC, their tolls are a relative bargain compared to surrounding states.  Plus you get a discount for having E-Z Pass.

    Delaware robs you of $7 going southbound on I-95, once at the Delaware Memorial Bridge for $3, then another $4 just a few miles down the road.  (No discounts either.)  And the total length of I-95 in DE is only about 20 miles.

    I’ve found a quick bypass around the $4 toll though!

    • 0 avatar
      ktm

      Can you really blame them?  I visit Delaware regularly.  All of my extended family lives there, my mother has a place in Fenwick Island and my father a place in Bethany.  There is a toll on the Bay Bridge too (northbound only).  They are hitting the beach traffic and those that are using the state as a bedroom community (such as Pennsylvania).

  • avatar
    jkross22

    Hmmm. 10 labor unions.  What a shock to hear they’re overpaid vis a vis their peers in private industry and on the taxpayer dole.  It’s been said quite a bit recently, but bears repeating – Labor unions outlived their usefulness decades ago.  They have become a leach on nearly every organization that serves as their host.
     
     

    • 0 avatar
      charly

      How can you say that they are overpaid without showing proof? Are there any private toll operators in NJ?

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      We can look at the level of skill and education required to do the job. Being a tolltaker really isn’t any more difficult than being a clerk at Wal-Mart or Target. We can compare the pay of tolltakers to their pay to get an idea of whether they are being adequately compensated, or overcompensated.

    • 0 avatar
      charly

      It is not the  same. First it is state and a monopoly which means you get the living wage issue, secondly it is money and people alone, add also state involvement and you got trouble

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      It is a skill and education issue. The other factors you mentioned all artificially inflate the wages paid to various government workers. They do not reflect what they would be paid in the private sector, which is the true gauge of what wages they should be paid.

  • avatar
    zerofoo

    My brother in law works for a construction company that builds and maintains roads and bridges.  His company is working on a 5 year contract to widen the turnpike between exits 6 and 9.
     
    The level of bureaucracy that he describes is astounding.  Meetings after meetings, for things that should have long ago been decided.  Layers of management that need convincing before the actual “decider” makes a decision.  Those layers don’t add value and cost money.
     
    After hearing about this mess, leasing the turnpike to a private company may not have been such a bad idea.
     
    -ted

    • 0 avatar
      skor

      “leasing the turnpike to a private company may not have been such a bad idea”.  You’re being sarcastic, right?  I was born in New Jersey (Jersey City, we lived on Palisades Ave between Jefferson and Waverly) and I currently reside in Bergen County, NJ.  I signed up for EZ-Pass when it first became available on the entire length of the NY Thruway — around 1997 or ’98 as best as I can recall.  At the time the NY State Thruway Authority handled the EZ-Pass project in house.  I’ve never had a problem with EZ-Pass in the 12 years that I’ve been enrolled with New York Thruway EZ-Pass.

      When New Jersey decided to install EZ-Pass on its toll roads during the administration of “conservative” Republican Christine Whitman, the project was farmed out to a private contractor, Worldcom.  Right from the jump, the entire project was a disaster — delays in installation, cost overruns, technical problems, false violation notices, on and on it went.   As it turns out, Worldcom got the contract, because of — wait for it — POLITICAL CONNECTIONS.   Jersey being what it is, does that surprise anyone?  I would never exchange my NY Thruway Authority EZ-Pass for Jersey EZ-Pass, and I live in Jersey.

      So you want the people in Trenton to lease NJ toll roads to private companies?  Careful what you wish for, you might just get it….good and hard.

  • avatar
    ciddyguy

    I can’t comment on the Jersey toll booth brauhaha but I can say this though, Here in Washington State, have a toll access at the Tacoma Narrow’s Bridge, and it’s to pay off the new bridge that had to be built alongside the old one to ease traffic congestion to the peninsula. When we lived in the West Tacoma area (1985-1999), it was not uncommon to see backups on Bridgeport and along Narrows Drive getting to Highway 16, which goes over the bridges and continues up to Bremerton, and this was during the evening rush hour and had friends who lived over on the peninsula in the town of Gig Harbor where they built their home back in the 70’s. At the time, traffic was not bad but by the early 90’s it was awful.
     
    So what they did was use EZ-Pass to collect the tolls on the NEW section of the bridge and I think it’s $3.50, may have gone up to $4 now, I don’t know and from what I understand, it will remain in effect until the bridge is paid off. Mom has one of those transponders on her windshield and she keeps $30 in her account and when she needs to go to my middle sister’s place on Bainbridge Island and getting there requires a trek through the peninsula to reach the bridge onto the island itself, coming back, she gets in the EZ-Pass lane and voila, she’s back in Tacoma.
     
    There is talk of expanding the EZ-Pass system and using it to also pay for the new 520 floating bridge that is in need of replacement due to age and the increased traffic across Lake Washington and the last I heard, both it and I-90 will get the toll to help pay for the new bridge, the hitch now is finding the funds to pay for the new western extension that is to solve the traffic bottleneck there for mass transit systems needing to go across that bridge. Right now, the old bridge, built some 50 years ago is only 4 lanes, 2 in each direction with no way to pull off should you break down and so almost on a daily basis you end up with that bridge being horrendous during rush hour while I-90, which is 2 bridges, one for each direction is usually better, but not always as it can become horrendous, just not as often thankfully.
     
    I believe they are working on adding light rail to I-90 as they are expanding the light rail system under Capitol Hill as we speak and there is now a light rail line to the airport and Metro Transit is adding Rapid express lines that have extended express hours and do not require a schedule as enough buses will serve the line to allow one at each stop every 15 minutes or so, the first line to Federal Way into Seattle is now online and another one has opened or will be shortly.
     
    I have not heard of any problems with the EZ-Pass system here in  our state but then again I don’t watch much TV and almost never catch the news anymore.
     
     

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • Mike A: The reason for bringing up Subarus poor sales performance in other major markets is because some people think...
  • Inside Looking Out: “hold nothing to Mazda in any category except diversity.” and inclusivity.
  • SPPPP: So I guess you don’t like Mazdas, is about the only piece of information I could glean from that post.
  • steverock: I test drove one of these last year and I really wanted to like it. I’ve had a TSX Wagon and TL SH-AWD in...
  • bullnuke: The Mazda fanbois made fun of Subaru’s standard AWD every time the brands are compared and now, WOW!....

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Corey Lewis
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber