Proposed Port Authority Hikes Spur Controversy

by Katie Fisher
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George Washington Bridge
Shinya, flickr

Commuters and union members argue over proposed toll hikes.

At a crowded public hearing Tuesday in Manhattan, some New Yorkers spoke out for, and some against the Port Authority's proposed toll hikes.

The agency said the toll increases are needed for security, to fund bridge and tunnel repairs, and the construction of projects like the World Trade Center Site.

Entering New York City would cost motorists $17 by 2014, up from the current $8, if the toll increases are approved by the governor of New York and New Jersey. The fairs for the PATH and subway trains under the Hudson River would rise from $1.75 to $2.75.

Kendra Adams, who was among a number of speakers at the hearing, said this would not be a responsible use of toll revenue.

“If a new bus garage is needed consider raising bus fares, if investments are needed in the region’s airports, increase parking fees at the airports that cover those costs,” said Adams. “Bridge and tunnel users should not be used to bear the cost of these projects.”

The Port Authority receives no tax money, and most of its revenues come from tolls and fees.

Union workers at the hearing said the proposed Port Authority toll increases are good news for the economy. A number of laborers crowded the public hearing to support the measure, saying it would create more jobs.

Tamara Rivera with the New York City’s carpenters union says toll payers need to make the sacrifice. “If you can insure 165,000 to 185,000 jobs, by doing this, that’s all anybody can think about,” said Rivera.

The Port Authority estimated that 167,000 jobs would be created over 10 years if the $33 billion proposal is approved. But opponents of the increase claim that commuters cannot afford higher tolls while the economy is down.

Public hearings will continue through Tuesday night across New Jersey and New York City. The Port Authority’s board is set to vote on the plan this Friday, but either Governor Christie or Governor Cuomo could veto it within 10 days.

 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
 

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