Self-serve gas would finally come to New Jersey under a plan unveiled Thursday by Gov. Jon S. Corzine to help the state battle increasing gas prices.
Expanded mass transit and additional carpooling incentives and pump inspections were among other ideas announced by the governor, who said his administration also is considering decreasing the state's maximum speed limit to 55 mph.
With the state's average price for a gallon of regular gasoline hitting $2.87 on Thursday, Corzine announced several steps aimed at getting New Jerseyans using mass transit and sharing rides to work. Corzine said property taxes and health care costs are the only expenses that crush New Jerseyans more than gas costs.
``I know people really struggle to deal with the high prices of energy,'' Corzine said.
His plan includes:
--Asking the Legislature to revise a 1949 law that bans self-serve gas pumping in New Jersey. Corzine wants a pilot program that would involve New Jersey Turnpike gas stations and maybe some local stations. The program will study whether self-serve gas leads to cheaper prices. Corzine said it could cut gas prices by as much as 6 cents.
Only New Jersey and Oregon require full-service gas pumping.
--Adding 101 bus trips on 31 NJ Transit bus routes, offering one free roundtrip ticket to each of NJ Transit's monthly pass holders.
--Trying to get more people to use the Transportation Department's carpooling program by spending $500,000 to provide
$100 debit cards to be used by new car pool participants for gas.
--Allowing hybrid vehicles to use the Turnpike's high-occupancy vehicle lanes, which normally require vehicles to hold at least three passengers. The lanes are between interchanges 11 and 14, from Woodbridge to Newark.
--Increasing enforcement of gas station monitoring to check whether stations are obeying state law that prevents them from changing gas prices more than once in a 24-hour period. State Attorney General Zulima Farber said the state wrote 15 citations last weekend after visiting 200 stations.
--Extending until May 1 an executive order Corzine signed last weekend that expands the hours a commercial driver can drive in New Jersey without mandatory rest. The idea is to keep truck drivers on the road delivering fuel to gas stations.
Corzine also voiced support for a plan by U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez to impose a federal gasoline tax holiday, but said the state's fiscal woes prevented him from considering that idea for New Jersey's state gas tax. The state has a projected $4.5 billion budget deficit, transportation funding concerns and, unlike the federal government, a constitutional mandate for a balanced budget.
"We don't have the luxury that the United States government has,'' Corzine said.
Motorists can drive up to 65 mph on several New Jersey highways. Corzine said he's heard differing arguments as to whether driving faster uses more gas.
"We have people looking at that,'' Corzine said.
Meanwhile, motorists on New Jersey's biggest toll roads could save on gas if they fuel up before Friday morning.
Prices at stations on the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway will jump 14 cents to $2.90 for a gallon of regular, said Joseph Orlando, a spokesman for the turnpike authority, which operates both highways. Mid-grade will be $3.01 and premium will be $3.12 per gallon.
Stations on those highways are only allowed to raise prices once a week. The prior week, the increase was 17 cents, Orlando said.
Thursday's average gas price was a penny higher than on Wednesday, and 78 cents higher than a year ago, according to AAA.
The highest average price for a gallon of regular gasoline in New Jersey was $3.18, set on Sept. 10, 2005.