Two-way bridge toll plan passes first hurdle

House Appropriations committee passes bill

A drive by U.S. Rep. Max Rose and two of his Democratic colleagues to bring two-way tolls back to the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge passed its first big test when the House Appropriations Committee passed a funding bill that removed language that would have kept the current one-way toll intact.

Rose and U.S. Reps. Nydia Velázquez and Jerrold Nadler are pushing for a return to a two-way tolling system on the span.

The bridge has operated under a one-way toll system for more than 30 years. The tolling system was put in place through federal legislation. The toll is paid by Staten Island-bound drivers. Brooklyn-bound motorists drive for free.

Under a plan proposed by Rose, Velázquez and Nadler, the Brooklyn-to-Staten Island crossing would have a two-way toll with half the $19 toll paid in each direction.

Language requiring that the bridge have one-way tolls was removed from the Fiscal Year 2020 Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development funding bill before the House Appropriations Committee passed it on June 4.

Rose, who represents several Southwest Brooklyn neighborhoods, as well as the entire borough of Staten Island, called the two-way toll a “common sense” solution that would ease traffic congestion.

It could also provide $10 to $15 million in additional revenue for the MTA, according to estimates. The MTA operates New York City’s bridges and tunnels.

Committee passage is a key first step, and I won’t be satisfied until this isn’t just a law, but the overdue investments we are owed become a reality,” Rose said, referring to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s proposed Capital Plan for 2020-2024 which includes investments in public transportation in Southwest Brooklyn and Staten Island.

The one-way toll has serious ramifications, according to Velázquez.

“For far too long, one-way tolling on the Verrazzano bridge has meant more commercial traffic making its way across Staten Island and then through Brooklyn communities and Chinatown as trucks try to dodge tolls,” said Velázquez, whose district includes parts of Brooklyn and Manhattan.

“I look forward to seeing this legislation move through the full House of Representatives and, ultimately, become enacted,” she added.

The fight to restore two-way tolls has been a long and hard-fought battle, said Nadler, who represents parts of Bensonhurst and Manhattan.

“After more than two decades working on this issue, I am extremely proud that the House Committee on Appropriations passed legislation that includes language to restore two-way tolling on the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge,” Nadler said. “The restoration of toll collection in both directions will greatly reduce traffic and congestion that has plagued Brooklyn, Lower Manhattan, and Staten Island for too long.”

The Verrazzano-Narrows-Bridge is the only bridge in the U.S. with a federally mandated one-way toll system. It was introduced through federal legislation championed by Guy Molinari, a Republican congressmember, with the purpose of reducing traffic backups and air pollution caused by cars backed up waiting to enter the toll plazas on Staten Island.

Since tolls are no longer collected at toll booths, but by E-ZPass or automatic tolling, the need for one-way tolling no longer exists, according to Rose.

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