Port of New York/New Jersey toll 'discount' insulting, truckers say

By David Tanner, Land Line associate editor | 4/11/2012

A high-volume discount offered by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey only adds insult to injury for small-business truckers coping with the agency’s five-year plan to double toll rates on its bridges and tunnels.

The Port Authority recently announced a 10 percent discount available for E-ZPass customers, but the reduction kicks in only when a carrier makes 100 or more trips on the agency’s toll facilities.

Small-business truckers like OOIDA Life Member Jim Ellis of Asbury, NJ, make enough trips to feel the squeeze but not enough to qualify for the discount.

“It’s just hard,” said Ellis, who hauls building materials. “But it is what it is, and they’re not going to change it for me or anybody else.”

Ellis said his comments during the Port Authority’s public meetings last August fell on deaf ears. He said he attempted to convey how the small-business trucker would be hurt by exorbitant tolls.

For example, the toll on the George Washington Bridge, which was $40 last year, is $50 this year and will increase to $90 by the end of the five-year plan.

The Port Authority wants to raise $33 billion, and direct $24 billion of that toward economic development including the construction of the World Trade Center’s Freedom Tower.

Ellis disagrees with the diversion of all but $9 billion of the proceeds away from bridges and tunnels.

“When they finish this project, are the tolls going to go back to the way it was? No, they’re going to find another way to spend that money,” Ellis says.

OOIDA Director of Regulatory Affairs Joe Rajkovacz says most truckers will be stuck paying in full, adding that the discount is a “bunch of smoke and mirrors.”

“For many operations, especially small operations, they won’t see a benefit from this, if you can even call 10 percent of a 100 percent rate increase a ‘benefit,’” Rajkovacz said.

Ellis can attest. On a recent trip, he paid out $168 in tolls en route to a customer.

“I’m the one that’s eating it,” he said.

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