By David Tanner, Land Line associate editor
The American Automobile Association has filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of toll increases implemented by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
The Port Authority recently increased toll taxes on its bridges and tunnels to fund economic development in the region, including the new World Trade Center site. AAA contends that the use of funds goes beyond the authority’s scope.
The first increase of a multiphase toll increase went into effect Sept. 18. Tolls on the George Washington Bridge, which jumped from $40 to $50 at that time, will increase to $90 by 2015.
If that weren’t enough, less than one-third of the proposed $33 billion capital improvement plan would go directly to transportation. The rest would go to economic development for the region, including five skyscrapers on the World Trade Center site.
Highway users say the amount of the increases, the disproportionately low amount of transportation work in the plan, and the diversion of funds are three good reasons to fight the toll increases.
“Plaintiffs AAA Clubs contend that the challenged toll increases which are earmarked to fund cost overruns in the Port Authority’s speculative real estate development at the World Trade Center are illegal because the increases are not functionally related to the Port Authority’s integrated, interdependent transportation network and should not have been included by the Port Authority in the base rate used by the Port Authority in setting the challenged toll increases,” the litigants stated in their compliant.
“The revenues resulting from the 2011 toll increase are to be used by the Port Authority to unlawfully provide funding for the reconstruction of the World Trade Center which is totally unrelated to the Port Authority’s integrated, interdependent transportation network,” AAA added later in the document.
This is not the first time AAA has taken issue with port toll increases in the region. AAA filed complaints in 1984 and 1987, saying increases were not just and reasonable. AAA did not file any complaint in response to increases in 2001 because the increases primarily funded transportation improvements, according to the most recent complaint document.
Truckers also believe the toll increases will hit their bottom line and do little to support roads and bridges.
Gail Toth, president of the New Jersey Motor Truck Association, told Land Line in August that the toll increases make highway users a different class of citizens that pay more in taxes just because they use certain bridges.
Jim Ellis, an OOIDA member from Asbury, NJ, said the toll increases will likely add $300 to his regular route.
See related story:
Truckers insulted by 125 percent toll increase in NY-NJ
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