Forget Christie; Let’s Talk about Big Fat Traffic Jams

SellwynThumbby Selwyn Duke   1/13/14
One unmentioned irony of the Chris Christie road-revenge scandal is that the powers-that-be finally found a traffic jam they didn’t like. Now, don’t get me wrong, having always lived in the NY metropolitan area and often having wanted to split a vein while in the midst of the NY/NJ road experience, I think that anyone who purposely exacerbates traffic problems should be confined to a small cell and forced to listen 24/7/365 to Nancy Pelosi’s nails-on-blackboard speeches. But I have to tell you: it has always seemed that NY and NJ public officials have utter disregard — if not contempt — for drivers in their states. In fact, their policies have long had the effect of exacerbating traffic problems.

Consider a common NY/NJ driving experience. You’re traveling north on the New Jersey Turnpike — passing exits 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 — and then all of a sudden the road transitions into a parking lot that you’re trapped in for a hour and a half. The cause?

The turnpike toll plaza some miles ahead.

Of course, it’s not always that bad, although it can be during holidays, bad rush hours and when other complicating factors manifest themselves. But the point is this: where is the logic in collecting revenue by stopping traffic on a heavily traveled roadway in a densely populated urban area? With the Christie situation, it seems that some officials have finally discovered that traffic jams lead to wasted resources (fuel), diminished productivity and possibly lost lives (the 91-year-old woman who died in an ambulance stuck in the traffic). But politicians don’t seem to care when these problems are visited upon the citizenry in the name of a government cash cow.

Moreover, few remember that many tolls were only meant to be in place until the projects they were associated with, such as certain bridges, were paid off. Instead, they became de facto taxes that the government can raise almost with impunity. And for all of you folks dealing with politicians who propose instituting tolls with the reassurance that they’ll only be this or that much, understand how expensive they can get. The fleecing when crossing the GWB is now $13 dollars for cars, and the peak E-ZPass rate for trucks with 6 or more axles is $84. (Mind you, since most products are shipped via truck, we all pay for the latter through higher consumer costs.) And if you then travel the NJ Turnpike from the GWB to the roadway’s end (Exit 1, the Delaware Memorial Bridge) — a mere 113.8 miles — the turnpike toll is another $13.85. That means a round trip taking you back over the GWB will run you $40.70 in tolls alone. And while the average commute might cost $15 less, one still wonders how the common man could afford it.

Then there is the incessant construction that anyone who lives in the NYC metro area knows painfully well. You hit a traffic jam, and 15 minutes later you find out it’s because a lane or two have been closed. You then drive at a snail’s pace past one and a half miles of orange pylons — without observing any work or workers at all. But then finally you do see three union hacks doing their thing. This consists of one, let’s say, doing some digging. Another seems to watch him.

The third is eating a doughnut.

Perhaps I exaggerate slightly, but the proof is in the pudding. It took a mere year and 45 days to build the Empire State Building, and the GWB — which upon its opening in 1931 was the world’s longest main span in the world — was completed in only 4 years. In contrast, how long do you think it took to effect basic road repair on the 10-mile-long Cross Westchester Expressway (I-287) in NY?

More than 10 years.

And it was the usual story: many lane closures, traffic jams from Hell, and very little apparent work.

I concluded a long time ago that road repair in NY and NJ was basically a quasi-welfare program. In fact, I remember when, a generation ago, former NY governor Mario Cuomo appeared in TV spots encouraging people to vote “yes” on a “Proposition 1,” which allocated one billion dollars for road repair. I always wondered why Cuomo was so anxious to get that bond passed and where the money went — especially since NY roads still stink.

As should always be the case in government, the GWB affair should be sifted to the very bottom. But the real road scandal in NY and NJ involves government-authored traffic jams that neither Gov. Christie nor Gov. Andrew Cuomo seem to care a whit about.
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7 Responses to Forget Christie; Let’s Talk about Big Fat Traffic Jams

  1. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Thanks for the informative article. I haven’t read that take on things. I don’t live on the East Coast so I’m not aware of all those turnpike scams, although we’ll wait and see if they ever remove the tolls from the new Tacoma Narrows Bridge. But they have in the past.

    Christie is a liberal Republican offering the same smorgasbord of policies as the Democrat Party. There is no love lost there. And although I never believed the Mitt Romney was “very conservative,” Christie showed his every-fat-man-for-himself attitude when he was kissing Obama’s ass after the hurricane.

    Jonah Goldberg wrote what I thought was an atrocious article on the subject which can be summed up as “Nothing to see here, folks, move along. Everybody is doing it.” It was Goldberg once again being too clever by half. We certainly don’t want our public officials using their powers to be vindictive. I don’t know why that’s an idea that should be controversial at all.

    But obviously we are right to notice the larger scams in operation right now. Big Government, at all levels, is essentially a scam. And I don’t think it’s too much to ask for politicians to be frugal with our money and certainly not to use their powers for petty political payback.

    Christie, quite frankly, can go to hell. He’s not the kind of man this country needs for president.

  2. Timothy Lane says:

    Some tolls are ended. The first time I drove by myself from Louisville to visit our relatives in Sweeden, KY about 40 years ago, my mother made sure I had the proper change to pay the tolls on the 2 highways (the Western Kentucky Parkway and part of I-65). Both are now toll-free.

    Jokes about the non-work of public highway workers are old. I recall my housemate mentioning one from the New Deal era (probably the WPA) about a public vehicle as something that sleeps 4 (or some such equivalent).

    Chris Christie, as I’ve pointed out in some of my posts on the subject, decided it was convenient for him to trash his own party and befriend the other. Now he’s learning that when trouble hits, he has friends in neither party. John McCain encountered the same thing in his vicious coverage by previously fawning synoptic media newsliars in 2008, but was evidently too old to learn the lesson.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      decided it was convenient for him to trash his own party and befriend the other. Now he’s learning that when trouble hits, he has friends in neither party.

      I wouldn’t mind at all if he trashed the Democrat Party…or the Republican Party for being so liberal.

      Clearly this is a blowhard of a man. Yes, we were all initially excited by this guy because his rhetoric against the teacher’s union was exactly the kind of thing we’ve been begging for people to say instead of just rolling over and saying “Thank you, sir, may I have another?”

      But as we learned more about him, he’s just another liberal, politically correct, dweeb. He’s a dupe of the global warming scam. He’s a dupe for the Muslim Brotherhood. He’s anti-second-amendment. He’s pro-big-government. There’s just nothing for a conservative to like about this man. And he can’t even back his own party in the presidential election.

      And although this traffic jam scandal is nothing compared to the IRS scandal, fast-and-furious, Benghazi, or a half dozen other atrocious acts by the Obama administration, no love is lost for Christie except perhaps by his RINO friends.

      I’m sure this is considered good news for Jeb Bush. But god spare us from another Bush.

      But think about how easily he could repair his image…Christie could just switch to the Democrat Party and then his (and I believe it is his) vindictive lane closures would be called simply “tough politics.” The Left would then admire him for it.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      The only toll I have ever seen ended was the one on Interstate 30 between Dallas and Fort Worth. The toll road was built in the early sixties and one of the provisions in the bill allowing the road to be built, in the first place, was that once the road was paid for the tolls would be lifted. This happened sometime in the 1980’s, as I recall, and the politicos in all the cities from Dallas to Fort Worth tried to maintain the tolls. This was fought be the people and the people won.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        I suspect something like that was the case with the various tolls on Kentucky highways. It will be interesting to see what happens with the tolls being set up on the Ohio River bridges here to pay for the new one, though I may not live to see them paid off myself.

  3. steve lancaster says:

    What is the issue here? That a political leader who is more Democrat than Republican ordered payback on a mayor who would not support him. This is New Jersey, second only in political corruption to Chicago. Being governor of New Jersey is the same thing as head of the Corleone family. If Christie ordered the bridge closure there will be no paperwork, or witnesses to the order. Orders like this are always given in person face-to-face and you can bet that the fired capos, err aids will be quietly taken care of.

  4. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    It must be 25 or 30 years again, when on a visit to NYC someone explained the situation with the GWB. Essentially, the tolls had paid for the bridge decades before. But the yearly tolls, which I seem to recall at that time was something like US$400 million, went straight to NYC’s general fund, allocation of which was completely at the discretion of the politicos. Not a bad slush fund. No way they were going to cancel that cash cow.

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