By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor
A proposal by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey would essentially double most tolls on bridges and tunnels starting in September. But that is not all. If they get their way, another round of hikes would follow in 2014.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association will soon issue a Call to Action to New Jersey and New York members, encouraging truckers to provide comment to the PANYNJ.
Blamed for the majority of congestion and wear and tear on their bridges and tunnels, truckers and cash users are targeted by the port authority to help bail them out of their money crunch.
The plan being pursued would increase tolls next month for cash-paying 5-axle trucks from $40 to $85 roundtrip. E-ZPass users are not being spared. Trucks crossing back and forth on one of the Hudson River’s crossings in the peak would be charged $70 – up from $40. Off-peak travel would not provide much of a break. The fee would increase from $35 to $65.
Only truckers traveling through overnight could be spared. The $27.50 fee would remain unchanged – as long as they use E-ZPass. In addition, the overnight discount now available midnight to 6 a.m. would be expanded to 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Another round of toll hikes would be imposed in 2014. At that time, truck passage would cost another $10, regardless of payment method or time of day. Smaller vehicles would see proportional increases.
PANYNJ officials say their hands are tied. They claim that failure to increase tolls would put at risk 240 critical infrastructure projects and thousands of jobs, as well as prevent the overhaul of the agency’s aging facilities.
The Port Authority expects the higher tolls to boost E-ZPass market share to about 85 percent – up from 70 percent. Also, delays during peak travel times are estimated to be reduced by 10 to 20 minutes.
The authority’s board of commissioners is scheduled to consider a final toll/fare plan at a Friday, Aug. 19, meeting. The public has an opportunity to weigh in on the plan at eight public hearings scheduled in the region on Tuesday, Aug. 16.
- 8 a.m., at the Newark Liberty International Airport, 1 Conrad Road, Building 157, Bay 3, Newark, NJ 07114;
- 8 a.m., at Port Authority Technical Center, 241 Erie St., Room 212, Jersey City, NJ 07310;
- 8 a.m., at Port Ivory/Howland Hook, 40 Western Ave., Staten Island, NY 10303;
- 8 a.m., at Port Authority Bus Terminal, 625 8th Ave., Times Square Conference Room – 2nd floor, New York, NY 10018;
- 6 p.m., at George Washington Bridge Administration Building, 220 Bruce Reynolds Way, Conference Room, Fort Lee, NJ 07024;
- 6 p.m., at Holland Tunnel Administration Building, 13th St. & Provost St., Conference Room, Jersey City, NJ 07310;
- 6 p.m., at George Washington Bridge Bus Station, 4211 Broadway, Lower Level Conference Room, New York, NY 10033; and
- 6 p.m., at John F. Kennedy International Airport, Port Authority Administration, Building 14, 2nd Floor Conference Room, Jamaica, NY 11430.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie have veto power overall all Port Authority actions. In a joint statement released last week the two governors expressed “concern” about the effects the plan would have on commuters and truck drivers.
“The Port Authority is facing financial issues but so are families in the states of New York and New Jersey,” the statement reads. “The answer cannot always be an indiscriminate and exorbitant increase in the cost to the taxpayer or, in this case, toll payer.”
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