Traffic relief may finally be on the way for southwest Brooklyn.
As of Saturday, July 8 at 3 a.m., long-awaited cashless tolling began on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.
Governor Andrew Cuomo made the announcement on Friday, July 7. The hopes is that utilizing the new technology will reduce congestion and improve travel, something area residents are eager for, especially given the traffic congestion spilling into the streets of Bay Ridge that has accompanied the construction work over the past few months.
“The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge is a vital transportation artery for New York City, and cashless tolling will improve safety, reduce congestion and streamline travel between Staten Island and Brooklyn,” said Cuomo. “By transitioning to cashless tolling, we are modernizing our transportation infrastructure and easing commutes for current and future generations of New Yorkers.”
Due to planned work at Penn Station, where Amtrak is proposing repairs which would reduce the number of trains at the station by 20 percent during peak travel times, the decision was made to speed up the cashless tolling initiative, which has the potential to save commuters up to 21 hours of drive time every year.
Early Saturday morning, even as cashless tolling took effect, the city started to remove the original toll booths piece by piece. By the Monday morning commute on July 10, all that remained from the longtime booths were concrete frames from each former divider, which vehicles slowed down a bit to pass.
The change was very noticeable for commuters during the evening rush hour, both for riders of MTA buses and drivers, who no longer had to stop at toll booths on their way to Staten Island.
“It is already really speeding things up, which everybody loves,” said Maria Z., who comes from Staten Island to Brooklyn daily for work. “I feel bad for the toll booth workers, but I look forward to this efficiency and a quicker and smoother flow of traffic.”
Under cashless tolling, vehicles with E-Z Pass tags will be automatically charged and vehicles without E-Z Pass will have their license plate recorded, with a bill mailed to the registered owner of the vehicle.
According to Cuomo, customers who do not pay their tolls are subject to fines, registration suspensions and other enforcement actions. Late fees accrue if an initial toll bill is unpaid, and if a second notice is also ignored, fines of up to $100 per toll violation may be imposed.
The New York State Department of Motor Vehicles has enacted a regulation that allows suspension of the vehicle registration of motorists with three or more unpaid tolls, violation fees or other charges resulting from violations on different days, and of commercial vehicle owners with $200 or more in unpaid tolls and violation fees within a period of five years, who ignore toll authorities’ repeated notices.
Drivers who receive a bill can pay it online at the Tolls by Mail website, by mail, over the phone or in-person, with payment options including check, credit card, bank account or cash.
E-ZPass “On-the-Go” tags cost $30 and come with $20 in prepaid tolls. The price includes a $10 refundable deposit, which is waived if the tag is linked to a credit card or bank account for automated replenishment. E-ZPass tags can also be purchased at local DMV offices.
In having cashless tolling, the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge joins the RFK Bridge, Henry Hudson Bridge, Hugh L. Carey Tunnel, Queens Midtown Tunnel and Rockaway Bridges (Cross Bay and Marine Parkway), where sensors and cameras suspended over the highway on structures known as “gantries” read E-Z Pass tags and take license plate images, so vehicles no longer have to stop and pay the toll.
For additional information on cashless tolling and E-ZPass, visit www. mta.info/e-zpass or call 1-800-333-8655.