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Commuters Outraged Over Port Authority Call For Major Toll And PATH Fare Hikes

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- It was a Friday afternoon surprise and commuters were not happy. The Port Authority is seeking a massive $1 billion toll and train fare hike.

If they don't win approval, completion of the World Trade Center and key upgrades at area bridges and airports might not happen. A $1 increase in PATH train fares is also being sought as part of a revenue raising plan the agency said it needs for an "infrastructure overhaul," reports CBS 2's Marcia Kramer.

The two-stage toll hike would affect the George Washington Bridge, Lincoln Tunnel, Holland Tunnel, Bayonne Bridge, Goethals Bridge and Outerbridge Crossing.

WCBS 880's Ginny Kosola With An Overview Of The Proposal


The Port Authority said that the additional revenue is necessary given the "historic economic recession" along with "billions in WTC and post 9-11 security costs."

LINK: For Complete Details Of The Port Authority's Proposals, Click Here

The release also outlined a number of the other proposed moves sought by the Port Authority:

  • Tolls for cars using E-ZPass on the Port Authority's crossings would increase from $6 to $10 roundtrip for off-peak travel and from $8 to $12 in peak hours. An additional $2 increase during peak and off-peak hours will be implemented in 2014.
  • A cash toll surcharge of $3 to increase the cash rate from $8 to $15 in 2011 for the 25 percent of toll-payers who still use the cash system. The surcharge is expected to increase the E-ZPass market share to approximately 85 percent, which will reduce travel delays during the peak of traffic congestion by 10-20 minutes.  The surcharge will increase by an additional $2 in 2014.
  • Truck tolls per axle using E-ZPass off-peak would increase from $7 to $13 roundtrip and peak from $8 to $14, with an additional $2 per-axle-increase in 2014 for both off-peak and peak hours.  A similar cash surcharge of $3 per axle will be applied to trucks in 2011 that continue to use the optional cash system with an additional $2 per axle in 2014.
  • There will be no toll increase on trucks who cross during the overnight discount period and we will expand this overnight period an extra two hours each weekday night from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m (previously 12 a.m. to 6 a.m.).  This will result in a 61% discount for a typical two-axle truck which will continue to pay $11 overnight as compared to the $28  toll in 2011 for the same truck using E-ZPass during the peak period.
  • Fully preserving the Staten Island Bridge Discount Plan for E-ZPass users, giving the frequent users a 50 percent toll discount on the peak E-ZPass toll.  In addition, qualified energy efficient vehicles with GreenPasses will see no toll increase during off-peak hours in 2011, and the car-poolers discount rate is preserved in 2011 with a 50 percent discount off the E-ZPass peak hour rate.  Both GreenPasses and carpoolers would see a $2 increase in 2014.

Veronica Vanterpool of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign said the epic toll hikes may be a necessary evil, to pay for new bus projects and much needed fixes for bridges, roads and airports.

But what alarms her is the PATH train part of this deal – a skyrocketing fare to $2.75 from the current $1.75; a 30-day unlimited to $89 from $54.

"We are concerned riders are being hit with a 57-percent increase. We would like to see that scaled back," Vanterpool told CBS 2's Dave Carlin.

"It's a crazy hike," added Jersey City PATH rider Keith Peasley. "It's the only way to work. I'm gonna have to pay it."

The Port Authority said the increased revenue is necessary for a number of projects, including replacement of suspender ropes on the George Washington Bridge ($1 billion), replacing the Lincoln Tunnel helix ($1.5 billion), raising the Bayonne Bridge ($1 billion) to alleviate a clearance problem for ships, building a new bus garage for the PA's Bus Terminal ($800 million), and adding significant security investments for the regions airports, including barriers ($360 million).

Commuters are furious about the plan that will sock them with a series of steep increases.

"There's nothing we can do.  I mean, we use it, we have to pay for it," one woman told 1010 WINS' Terry Sheridan. "That's a lot of money," she said.

"I think it's outlandish to raise toll prices another $4, especially in this economic recession," Jari Almonte of Milburn, N.J. told CBS 2's Christine Sloan.

"I feel that is just outrageous to raise prices that high," another driver told CBS 2's Kramer.

1010 WINS' Terry Sheridan With Angry Commuters At The Holland Tunnel


The Port Authority also said that it will hold nine public hearings across New York and New Jersey.

Of course, any toll hike would require the approval of both New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.  The PA's board would have to vote on the proposals in two weeks.

Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below.

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