Monday, August 8, 2011

Port Authority plans massive toll hikes

As if the tolls weren't enough already, the Port Authority is planning another round of toll hikes for the river crossings. Average increases would be a shocking 50-100%. The change would affect the GWB, Holland and Lincoln Tunnel, as well as the Goethells, Bayonne, and Outerbirdge Crossing.

NJ.com went into more detail on the increases: (http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2011/08/port_authority_plans_4_toll_hi.html)

Under the proposal, tolls for cars using E-ZPass would jump by $4 — one of the largest increases in memory — raising the cost from $6 to $10 for off-peak travel and from $8 to $12 in peak hours. An additional $2 increase during peak and off-peak hours would be implemented in 2014.

Motorists paying by cash would be even harder hit, with an additional surcharge of $3, increasing the cash rate from $8 to $15 this year. That surcharge would increase by an additional $2 in 2014.

For trucks using E-ZPass during off-peak hours, tolls would go from $7 to $13 per axle and from $8 to $14 during peak hours, with an additional $2 per axle increase in 2014 for both off-peak and peak periods.

A similar cash surcharge of $3 per axle would be applied to trucks this year with another $2 per axle hike in 2014.

 

That’s a lot of money. And when the Port authority raises tolls, the MTA is typically in step to do the same. The measure is coming to vote on Aug 17th, and is thankfully subject to veto by either Governor Christie or Cuomo. Reports say both are against such a massive hike.

So why such a startling increase?  The Port Authority press release says:

BUILDING AND CONSTRUCTION TRADES COUNCIL SUPPORTS PROPOSED INCREASE IN BRIDGE AND TUNNEL TOLLS


Date: Aug 08, 2011
Press Release Number: 51-2011


The Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York (BCTC) today endorsed the toll increase proposed by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

“On behalf of the 100,000 working men and women represented by our affiliated unions, we support this effort to give The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey the resources needed to maintain and improve its transportation infrastructure,” said Gary La Barbera, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York.

“Without this toll increase, 3,900 jobs will be lost and $483 million in Port Authority capital spending will not happen in 2011 alone,” he added.

In addition, the toll increase will help fund the PANYNJ's 10 year, $33 billion capital plan, which will generate more than 185,000 jobs, many of which are in construction.

“The Port Authority's history of investments in bridges, tunnels, mass transit and air travel has been essential to establishing our region as a global center of economic growth and job creation. We can't afford nothing less than continuing this strong tradition,” concluded La Barbera.

According to the BCTC, the construction industry in New York City has lost more than 20,000 jobs since 2008 and is suffering its highest unemployment in 13 years.

The Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York consists of local affiliates of 15 national and international unions representing 100,000 working men and women in the five boroughs of New York City.


Translated, this says we mostly need to keep paying off overtime, disability and pensions. It’s not that some of the work doesn’t need to be done, the question as always is where these funds go.

While I won’t dispute their numbers, it seems that the hardest hit will be the truckers, who are pretty much the people responsible for the majority of goods being moved for economic stimulus. Figure it like this: By 2014, the average GWB crossing will be $14 for easy pass people in cars. Trucks take a much more significant hit - right now, a commercial vehicle pays per axle, so your average 18 wheeler has 5 axles. So by 2014, that’s an $80 toll for a truck to cross the bridge. This also creates a dangerous situation on bridges, as we can assume more trucks with full loads are going to be raising their drop axle under full weight which compromises stability.

This massive increase just might be the final stake to drive me and other motorists to the mass transit system, and a lovely 6 hours a day commuting.