Could two-way toll on Verrazzano be used to reduce tolls for all drivers?

Two-way tolls on the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge could have another benefit.

Days after a group of federal officials representing Brooklyn and Staten Island held a press conference to announce that they were pursuing legislation that would restore toll collection in both directions on the bridge, Republican Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis, who represents portions of Staten Island and Brooklyn, has weighed in with a suggestion, that the revenue that is expected to be derived from the switch — with drivers no longer able to make an end-run around paying tolls by using other crossings to get onto Staten Island — be earmarked for toll reduction.

Under the current tolling system, motorists drive from Staten Island to Brooklyn for free, while drivers headed the other way pay a one-way toll of $19. Under a two-way toll, non E-ZPass motorists would pay $9.50 each way.

The new two-way tolling legislation would bring back the two-way tolls 33-years after the federal government instituted a one-way system on the Brooklyn-Staten Island span. It was first introduced at a press conference held by U.S Reps. Max Rose, Nydia Velazquez and Jerrold Nadler, all Democrats, along with MTA Chair and CEO Patrick Foye.

They explained that the MTA had recently conducted a study proving two-way tolling would bring $10 to $15 million in additional revenue to make improvements to the bridge, which Malliotakis says should already be funded by the existing Verrazzano Bridge toll revenue of nearly $500 million a year.

“I’m generally supportive of two-way tolling but I would like to see the study made public and I’d like to see the extra revenue it creates to go toward lowering the bridge toll for my constituents,” said Malliotakis. 

“The existing $500 million in toll revenue is already going to fund bridge maintenance and transit. With congestion pricing coming down the pike to fund transit options and infrastructure improvements, a move to take the extra revenue from two-way tolling and claim it is being used for bridge maintenance would be nothing more than a Ponzi scheme,” she added.

Recently Malliotakis spoke on Fox 5’s Good Day New York about her concerns and also called for the MTA to release a study it conducted at the request of former U.S. Rep. Dan Donovan so skeptical New Yorkers could see the negatives and positives of two-way tolling for themselves.

Malliotakis agrees that two-way tolling would generally improve traffic conditions and reduce congestion on the Staten Island and Gowanus expressways, and has long-advocated for reduced tolls for both Brooklyn and Staten Island residents.

“I’m glad we can all agree that split tolling on the Verrazzano will decrease congestion without adding a cent to commuters’ costs,” Rose told this paper.

“The agreement I made with the MTA finally flips the script with commitments for real investments in our district in the next capital plan. But I absolutely support efforts to lower resident tolls [also pursued by Democratic state Senators Andrew Gounardes and Diane Savino]. It’s common sense,” added Rose.

Malliotakis said that her biggest concern was where the money was going to go.

“When I heard Pat Foye at the press conference the other day say that it’s going to be directed towards maintenance and improvements of the bridge I thought that was pretty outrageous,” she said.

“The additional revenue from the two-way toll should not to be used for maintenance of the bridge; that’s what the half a billion dollars that you already receive for toll revenue should be used for to begin with,” explained Malliotakis.

“Are you saying that the bridge will fall down if we don’t use this money for that?” she went on. “This money should go back to Brooklyn and Staten Island for reducing the toll, period, end of story.”

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