NJ, NY bridge tolls going up

January 4, 2008 6:09:12 PM PST
Millions of New Jersey motorists will pay up to $8 to drive into New York City - and tolls on bridges and tunnels will keep rising with the cost of living, a transit agency said Friday. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey approved the first toll hikes in six years on its six bridges and tunnels linking New Jersey to Manhattan and Staten Island. Thousands of commuter rail passengers will pay 25 cents more for one-way train fares between the two states.

Agency officials said the increases would generate hundreds of millions of dollars to pay for post-Sept. 11 security, construction projects like rebuilding the World Trade Center site and especially mass transit, including a crucial second rail tunnel to be built underneath the Hudson River.

"This is a substantial, almost historic level of investment" in mass transit, agency chairman Anthony Coscia said. "The fact that we're doing this is a significant change that I think will benefit this region for decades to come."

Motorists griped that while the hikes would help build a new Goethals Bridge, most of the $30 billion in planned construction weren't focused on roads, bridges and tunnels.

"Most of the ... projects would be financed with the cash customers paying tolls and they aren't getting the corresponding bang for their buck," said Robert Sinclair, a spokesman for AAA in New York. "It's all on the back of the motorists, as usual."

Other transit advocates hailed the agency's plan to reduce a PATH train increase from $1.50 to $1.75 instead of $2.

The Port Authority's plan to use the increase for the rail tunnel - which would be used by Amtrak and New Jersey Transit - "is a very transit-focused plan," said Kate Slevin, executive director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign.

The agency also reduced a commuter discount fare for train riders and added one-day, seven-day and unlimited monthly passes for the train line, similar to the New York City subway system. The increases take effect March 2.

The board approved a plan to raise the bridge and tunnel tolls by $1 when the cost of living rises, according to the regional consumer price index; the increases will likely occur every three to five years, agency officials said.

The toll increases saw little public opposition; just over 40 people attended seven public meetings, including one online, and about 200 others submitted e-mails, with over half approving of the plan.

The one-way tolls affect drivers heading into Manhattan on the George Washington Bridge and through the Lincoln and Holland tunnels, and into Staten Island on the Goethals, Outerbridge Crossing and Bayonne bridges. PATH trains travel from Newark, Jersey City, Harrison and Hoboken, N.J., to six different stations in New York City.


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