Tolls From New Jersey Into New York May Increase (Again)

By Patrick McGeehan


June 25, 2019

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is planning to raise tolls on its bridges and tunnels by at least $1, including on the George Washington Bridge. 


Drivers bound for New York City already pay some of the highest bridge and tunnel tolls in the country. After next year they will also have to pay a congestion fee to enter the busiest parts of Manhattan.

But even before that fee goes into effect, the cost of traveling into and around New York may go up as part of a plan by the agency that operates the main airports in the region and the bridges and tunnels that connect New York and New Jersey.

Those new or increased charges would come ahead of — and possibly in addition to — New York’s congestion pricing plan.

The agency, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, is proposing increases in tolls and fares and wants to introduce a new fee: $4 per ride for airport trips in taxis and other for-hire vehicles.

The toll for the George Washington Bridge, the world’s busiest bridge, the Lincoln Tunnel and other crossings into the city from New Jersey would rise by at least $1 per car. And the fare for the airport AirTrains that link airline terminals with public transit would jump by more than $2 to $7.75.

The projected revenue from those charges — about $235 million a year — would help pay for the Port Authority’s spending spree on improvements to the airports and other transportation infrastructure in the region, agency officials said. The agency plans to ask its board of commissioners on Thursday to approve a $4.8 billion increase in its 10-year spending plan.

The additional spending — an increase of 15 percent over the agency’s existing $32.2 billion capital budget — would go toward a long list of upgrades to the three aging airports that serve the city.

The board would have to approve the proposed increases in revenue from tolls and fares, most likely at its monthly meeting in September.

“At a time of the Port Authority’s unprecedented investment in our region’s infrastructure to upgrade Port Authority facilities to 21st century standards, we must be prepared to provide needed funding,” said Rick Cotton, the agency’s executive director. “These recommended increases in tolls and fares are both needed and measured.”

The proposal to add a $4 fee to every ride to and from the airports by Uber drivers and other for-hire vehicles and to every pickup at the airports by taxis would be in line with existing fees at airports in Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington and San Francisco, according to agency officials.

But representatives of ride-share drivers said the proposal was unfair to app-based drivers who struggle to earn a living.

“It is patently unfair to tax Uber and Lyft trips in both directions while taxing taxis in only one direction,” said Brendan Sexton, executive director of the Independent Drivers Guild.

Harry Hartfield, a spokesman for Uber, which already pays the City of Newark $1 million a year for access to Newark Liberty, said, “We want to continue to work with the Port Authority, but riders deserve to know that the tens of millions of dollars in new fees the authority has proposed won’t be wasted.”

Bhairavi Desai, executive director of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, said in a statement: “Drivers are in crisis but the Port Authority underestimates our resolve. If they want a fight, they got one. Drivers: get ready to shut down the airports.”

At the start of next year, the cash toll at six bridges and tunnels that connect New Jersey to the city would rise to $16, from $15, and the discount for using the E-ZPass electronic tolling system would shrink. The agency also is proposing eliminating discounts for E-ZPass devices that are registered in states other than New York or New Jersey.

The toll increases would be the first since 2015.

Nick Sifuentes, executive director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, an advocacy group, said he worried that toll increases might raise opposition to congestion pricing, which he said is needed to fund subway repairs. “We need to make sure that if we’re increasing tolls that it’s for something that has a tangible, regular benefit for commuters,” Mr. Sifuentes said.

The Port Authority is in the midst of overhauling La Guardia Airport, planning major changes at Kennedy International Airport and building a new terminal at Newark Liberty International Airport. It also wants to add an AirTrain to connect La Guardia to the subway and rail network and to replace the troubled AirTrain at Newark Liberty.

The agency’s estimate of the cost of building the AirTrain to La Guardia, a pet project of New York’s governor, Andrew M. Cuomo, has risen to $2.05 billion from $1.5 billion. That is the same amount the agency wants to spend on replacing Newark’s AirTrain, which New Jersey’s governor, Philip D. Murphy, has said was a priority.

The two governors share control of the Port Authority, which is tasked with moving people and freight efficiently around the metropolitan region. Traditionally, governors for the two states have divided up the agency’s steady stream of cash from tolls, fares and fees.

Much of that money has gone to build and rebuild the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan and to make up for the heavy annual losses of the PATH commuter train system, both of which are owned and operated by the agency.

As a result, the agency’s three big airports and the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Midtown Manhattan have fallen into steep decline.

In recent years, Mr. Cuomo has pledged to rebuild some of the state’s crumbling infrastructure, including La Guardia and Kennedy airports.

In turn, Mr. Murphy and other political leaders in New Jersey have pushed for replacing the bus terminal and other improvements at Newark Liberty, including new terminals and the new AirTrain.

While the proposed increase in spending includes more than $2.2 billion for improvements at the Newark airport and to the PATH, it adds nothing for the bus terminal.

Port Authority officials said they remained committed to replacing the bus terminal in consultation with leaders of the community that surrounds it. But they said it was too soon to estimate how much that project would cost.

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