Despised Raritan Toll Booths Razed

Fri October 15, 2004 - Northeast Edition

SAYREVILLE, NJ (AP) For decades, they were a part of the New Jersey landscape, cursed by thousands of motorists idling in long lines of traffic heading to jobs in North Jersey.

At one point or another, most drivers in New Jersey have had their own unpleasant encounters with the Garden State Parkway’s Raritan toll booths — blinking, taunting icons of frustration and fumes.

Now, the northbound toll booths are gone. The last ones were demolished the morning of Wednesday, Oct. 6.

The work is part of a new toll configuration designed to ease congestion at what had been the state’s busiest toll plaza. The northbound booths were razed and the toll eliminated for drivers heading in that direction; the southbound booths remain and the 35-cent toll has been doubled to 70 cents to preserve the highway’s revenue.

“For as much as they were an icon, they were an icon that people are glad to see go,” said Joe Orlando, a spokesman for the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, which also operates the Parkway. “No one is going to miss them. We have yet to see the protesters with the signs saying, ’Save The Raritan Tolls.’”

Built in July 1954 and renovated in January 1999, the northbound Raritan toll booths handled more than 126,000 vehicles each weekday.

Oct. 6, bulldozers and backhoes were tearing at the last support foundations of the plaza. By 10:30 a.m., only rubble remained.

“It’s about time,” said Raymond Neveil, of Brielle, president of Citizens Against Tolls, a grass-roots group that has been lobbying for the complete elimination of tolls on New Jersey’s highways. “It’s actually long overdue.

“Tolls congest traffic, create pollution and cause accidents,” he said. “We’re glad to see [the demolition] but hope it’s only a first step to getting rid of all the toll booths.”

Thus far, the promised northbound relief has not materialized. Demolition of the booths and reconfiguration of traffic lanes to accommodate the work resulted in 5-mi. backups most weekday mornings, reaching as far south as Exit 120.

AP Photo: The cement barriers that protected the toll booths at the Garden State Parkway’s Raritan North toll plaza in Sayreville, NJ, were demolished Oct. 6.