Lautenberg, Port Authority continue battle over toll hikes
As members of the Legislature today urged the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to suspend scheduled toll hikes, an agency official told the state's business leaders that the toll increase is the only viable option to support infrastructure projects and keep the Port Authority Trans-Hudson service in operation.
"The Bayonne Bridge is the most critical project, and we have $1 billion to do it the cheapest way we could do it. Somebody's got to pay for it," agency Chairman David Samson said at a roundtable meeting hosted by the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce. "All of these (projects) cost money at a time when revenues are down. All we can do is raise tolls."
Samson said those who pay $12 in cash or $9.50 with E-Z Pass — which will increase to $13 in cash and $10.25 with EZ-Pass in December 2012 — to cross a bridge have to "not only pay for the upkeep of the bridge, but also the upkeep of the integrated (transportation) network."
According to Samson, the Port Authority's options against raising tolls were to shut down the PATH or raise the toll to use it.
"The PATH has 264,000 people a day on it. It costs $300 million a year for the Port Authority to run it," Samson said. "For something that loses $300 million a year … who will buy it?"
At a press conference today, U.S. Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-Cliffside Park) and other lawmakers said the Port Authority should stop its scheduled annual increases through 2015 until an audit is completed and reforms are put in place.
"The authority should use better judgment and suspend the new increases and concentrate on making needed reforms," state Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-Teaneck) said in a statement.
Samson said he has received a letter from the lawmakers, but that it needs to be reviewed by the agency's board of commissioners. He said no one at the agency has yet spoken to Lautenberg's office.