With some issues, you have to wonder why it has taken so long for them to rise to the top of the public's - and lawmakers' - consciousness.

The New Jersey Turnpike Authority has been around since 1948. The authority has operated the Garden State Parkway since 2003. But never has the Turnpike Authority been required to hold regular meetings in South Jersey, and the governor has never been required to appoint anyone from South Jersey to the authority's eight-member board.

This longstanding slap to South Jersey isn't all that surprising considering that the authority never bothered to spend much money down here. To these folks, based in Woodbridge, Trenton is South Jersey.

Thankfully, that is changing. The Turnpike Authority has several parkway projects under way in these parts and more on the drawing board. We're grateful. But too often, the attention still comes in unwanted ways - that ridiculous "anti-terrorist" fence and the recent massive tree-cutting on the parkway jump to mind.

So two bills working their way through the Legislature are critical to the people of South Jersey.

One, approved by the state Senate last month, would require the Turnpike Authority to hold at least two regular meetings a year in either Atlantic, Cape May or Ocean counties and at least one meeting a year in Salem, Gloucester or Camden counties.

The other measure would require that at least one member of the Turnpike Authority be a resident of Atlantic, Cape May or Ocean counties, and at least one be a resident of Burlington, Camden, Gloucester or Salem counties. Currently, no one from any of those counties is on the authority board.

Both measures - which are being pushed by lawmakers in the 1st, 2nd and 9th districts - address inequities that should have been addressed long ago.

The Turnpike Authority is in the midst of rebuilding parkway Exits 9, 10 and 11 in Cape May County. Full interchanges at Exit 44 and a new Exit 41 are coming. A project to replace the southbound span over the Great Egg Harbor Bay will begin soon.

Again, we're grateful for the attention. But local residents would have liked more input into those projects. And many remain unhappy that a full interchange at Exit 40, where the parkway crosses the White Horse Pike, is not on the list of coming projects. And, of course, there's that fence and the tree-cutting, both of which caught residents by surprise.

The Legislature should pass both of these measures - and do it quickly. South Jersey has been cheated out of its rightful representation at the New Jersey Turnpike Authority long enough.

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