Public outcry over proposed $4 and $2 toll hikes for bridges and tunnels into New York City, as well as a $1 PATH hike, forced Port Authority executive director Chris Ward to put out a statement yesterday defending the agency's plans.
From the statement:
The Port Authority relies on the toll and fare box as the primary way in which the agency funds its interstate transportation program. As a result of the historic economic recession, those funds declined sharply from the original projections on which our capital plan was based. Combine that decline with the tripling of security costs since 9/11, necessary costs to rebuild the World Trade Center, the need to replace two of the agency’s bridges over the next ten years, and rehabilitations of key infrastructure components including the Lincoln Tunnel and George Washington Bridge, and the case for our proposed toll and fare increase becomes clear.
Ward then goes on to say that the "phased $4 and $2 increase in 2011 and 2014 respectively" would create "167,000 jobs and $9.7 billion in wages," adding that "Without this increase now, construction of the World Trade Center site could slow or stop. This is why numerous groups representing workers, businesses, environmentalists and transportation advocates have endorsed our plan."
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who both have to sign off on the plan, have said they agree a hike is necessary but seem reluctant to support such a significant rise in tolls.
CBS News reports that Cuomo thinks it's a bad time to pick taxpayers’ pockets. “I think that proposal is a non-starter for obvious reasons,” he said.
And Christie blamed officials for mishandling the Port Authority, saying, “This is, unfortunately, a testimony to the mismanagement of the Port [Authority] for years. We shouldn’t have to be in this kind of situation."
According to The New York Times, the Port Authority will vote on the toll hikes this Friday and if passed, Cuomo and Christie have a 10-day window in which they can veto the measure.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Port Authority officials told members of its board earlier this month that the agency's credit rating would be downgraded by the end of the year if it didn't find a way to cut spending on construction or raise new revenue.
An open online hearing on the matter will be held today at 2pm and more public hearings will take place this evening. For a full listing of times and locations go here.
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