Funds to be used to improve buses, subways
Bringing two-way tolls back to the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge would have a big economic benefit that could wind up giving residents of Brooklyn and Staten Island better transit service, according to U.S. Rep. Max Rose, one of three lawmakers pushing legislation to scrap the span’s one-way toll system.
Rose claims that reinstituting two-way tolls would provide the MTA, the agency that operates the city’s bridges and tunnels, with an additional $10-$15 million a year – money that would go toward repairs and upgrades of the transit system.
Under the current tolling system, motorists drive from Staten Island to Brooklyn for free, while drivers headed the other way pay the toll.
With a two-way toll, motorists will no longer be able to circumvent the tolling system by driving eastbound for free and returning for free by avoiding the bridge on the way back, Rose said.
“Staten Island and South Brooklyn have been used as a cheap thoroughfare for far too long,” Rose said.
Two-way tolling would not lead to increased fares, but instead would split the toll in half to be paid in both directions, Rose said. Without E-ZPass, the one-way toll is $19.00. Under a two-way toll, non E-ZPass motorists would pay $9.50 each way.
Rose, a freshman Democrat who represents Staten Island and several neighborhoods in Southwest Brooklyn, held a press conference on Sunday with U.S. Reps. Jerrold Nadler and Nydia Velázquez, State Sen. Brian Kavanagh, Assembly Members Peter Abbate and Jo Anne Simon and Councilmembers Justin Brannan and Margaret Chin.
Rose, Nadler and Velázquez are pushing legislation to re-instate the two-way toll, which was first implemented under federal legislation in 1986.
“We don’t have decades to wait, we need action and this plan to bring split tolling to the Verrazzano will help get us there by dramatically decreasing commuter traffic in Staten Island and Brooklyn, while also reinvesting future revenue into the buses and public transit options that Staten Island and South Brooklyn deserve,” Rose said.
MTA Chairman Patrick Foye also attended the press conference and endorsed the two-way toll legislation.
“Given today’s technology, there is no reason to require tolls only in one direction on this important crossing, and we look forward to rationalizing the collections so they match every other tolled-bridge in the nation, helping to fund the next MTA capital plan including much-needed investments in Staten Island and Southern Brooklyn,” Foye said.
The MTA is committed to making investments in public transportation in Southern Brooklyn and Staten Island in its 2020-2024 Capital Plan, according to Foye.
Nadler said two-way tolls will have benefits that go far beyond Staten Island and Southwest Brooklyn.
“The restoration of toll collection in both directions, using electronic tolling that does not require stops at a toll plaza, will greatly improve traffic and congestion in Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan, while also capturing new vital funding for the MTA from out of state trucks, who no longer will avoid a toll entering New York City via Staten Island in order to escape the charges on the Hudson River Bridge and tunnel crossings,” Nadler said.
Other factors, such as a reduction in air pollution and less wear and tear on local roadways are also reasons to support bringing back two-way tolls, according to Velázquez.
“The solution being announced today will mean less congestion, safer streets and better air quality in our communities. It will reduce wear and tear on Brooklyn, Manhattan and Staten Island infrastructure like the BQE, Gowanus Expressway, Manhattan Bridge and Canal Street,” she said.
Savino, a Democrat whose district includes neighborhoods on Staten Island and in Brooklyn said there is another benefit to a two-way toll: stress relief for frazzled drivers.
“As someone who represents both Staten Island and Southern Brooklyn, I know firsthand how difficult, inconvenient, and tiresome it is to sit in dead-stop traffic just to drive a few miles. Changing to a two-way tolling system on the Verrazzano will alleviate the traffic nightmare in this entire region, allowing people to spend more time with their families and less time on the road,” Savino said.