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Citizens Group Rallies To End Parkway Tolls
Petition Drive On Boardwalk In Belmar Nets Several Hundred Names

Originally appeared in The Star Ledger on August 20, 2000
By Liz Leyden

Two dozen people in bright yellow T-shirts prowled Belmar's boardwalk yesterday, armed with clipboards and a question for sunbathers: "How 'bout getting rid of the tolls?"

Members of a year-old grassroots group called Citizens Against Tolls chose a sunny day and a crowded beach- front to promote its dream of abolishing tolls along the Garden State Parkway.

Ticking off a list of toll-created woes from the dangers of drivers jockeying for the fastest toll line to time wasted sitting in traffic to the pollutants spewed from idling cars -- the group sought signatures for a petition that will ultimately find its way to Trenton.

In the morning, Jersey City Mayor Bret Schundler -- a Republican candidate in the 2001 gubernatorial race -- joined the gathering at 13th Avenue to offer his support.

"In 1776, most Americans (were) willing to let the king do whatever he wanted, tax whatever he wanted," Schundler said. "But the greatest country in the world was formed because a small group of people stood up and said, 'We're not going to take this.'"

As he spoke, a plane rented by the group buzzed overhead, dragging a banner reading, "End Parkway Tolls." The group cheered loudly.

"That's marvelous," Schundler said, craning his neck toward the sky.

Many beachgoers were sympathetic to the group's cause. Men and women hauling folding chairs and umbrellas stopped to sign petition sheets and commiserate over the plethora of Parkway toll plazas.

Jim Patane, a corrections officer from New York, said he signed the petition because of weekend commutes to the Shore.

"There's too many tolls," Patane said. "Going home on Sundays, it's not the Parkway, but the parking lot."

Yesterday's effort netted several hundred signatures, members of the citizens group said. The drive will continue this fall in supermarkets throughout northern New Jersey, they said.


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