New Jersey Gov. Christie Whitman yesterday announced she is ordering big interstate trucks off local highways, including 31, 29 and 206.
All are north-south arteries in the western part of the state; all connect the Philadelphia area with east-west highways I-80 and I-78 and all have both four-lane and two-lane sections.
"Large interstate trucks that are not doing business in New Jersey have no business using our local roads," Whitman said.
Officially, the ban applies only to trucks 102 inches wide and longer than 48 feet. Trucks making local pickups and deliveries or on their way to a local service provider, such as a repair shop, are exempted.
Some truckers use the affected roads to avoid tolls on the New Jersey Turnpike, a long-standing practice that burgeoned when the New Jersey Turnpike Commission doubled truck tolls in 1991. Since then, local truck traffic has increased steadily, angering local communities along the routes. A number of fatal accidents helped build political anti-truck pressure.
The ban went into effect immediately, but there are no penalties yet in place. Until the state legislature establishes some, State Police say they will simply order truckers off the roads. Meanwhile, local politicians are pushing for heavy fines.
Routes 1 and 130, both four-lane highways that more closely parallel the Turnpike, are not affected by the ban. But local and regional truckers complain the ban on 29, 31 and 206 leaves them without a reasonable north-south route in western New Jersey.
Sam Cunninghame, Executive Director of the New Jersey Motor Truck Assn., had not returned a call by deadline time. However, the Trenton Times published this quote from Cunninghame: "It's our understanding that the ban will not apply to pickups or deliveries in the state of New Jersey, just those passing through. We contemplate no action."
However, a number of New Jersey-based carriers expressed outrage at the ban, which was imposed only days after U.S. Secretary of Transportation ruled that New Jersey could impose such a measure without federal interference because the affected highways are not part of the federal highway system.
The American Trucking Assns. says it will take a look at the ban "with the goal of protecting interstate commerce," according to the Bergen (NJ) Record.
For a typical 18-wheeler, the New Jersey Turnpike toll from end to end is $18.20.