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Port Authority Seeks Higher Tolls for Hudson River Crossings

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey proposed toll increases for Hudson River bridges and tunnels that would boost the cost to enter Manhattan to as much as $17.

Drivers with the electronic E-Z Pass device would see peak-hour charges increase to $12 from $8 in September for the George Washington Bridge and the Holland and Lincoln tunnels linking New Jersey and Manhattan, and on three bridges from the state to Staten Island.

Additional $2 increases during peak and off-peak hours would be implemented in 2014, the agency said today in a statement. The toll is only collected for travel into New York. Those paying cash would see tolls raised to $15 from $8 next month and to $17 in 2014.

“The Port Authority does not receive tax revenue, making its toll and fare structure the primary way to fund the region’s critical interstate transportation network,” the agency’s news release said.

The port authority board scheduled a vote on the higher tolls and fares for Aug. 19

The increase would boost Port Authority revenue by about $240 million from September through the end of the year, and $720 million a year in 2012, said Ron Marsico, an agency spokesman. The 2014 increment would add another $290 million a year, raising the total annual gain from the increase to more than $1 billion, he said.

Capital Plan

The authority said the higher tolls are necessary to help fund a $33 billion 10-year capital plan and pay $1.9 billion for World Trade Center redevelopment. It would also finance $806 million in security expenses, which is triple the cost since Sept. 11, 2001. About $3.9 billion in capital projects such as replacing cables on the George Washington Bridge are contingent on the increase, according to the announcement.

“Failure to act risks 240 critical infrastructure projects and thousands of jobs, and will prevent the overhaul of the agency’s aging facilities,” the Port Authority said.

Economic benefits from completing the capital plan include creation of 167,000 jobs, $38.4 billion in sales, and $9.7 billion in wages within the 17-county New York-New Jersey Port District, the agency said in its news release.

The toll boost “focuses the greatest increase on cash users and trucks that cause the most traffic congestion and wear-and-tear,” Steve Coleman, an agency spokesman, said in the statement.

PATH Fares

Fares for the PATH commuter rail service under the Hudson River would rise to $2.75 from $1.75 in September for individual rides. A 30-day unlimited pass would increase to $89 from $54.

Although the agency didn’t mention any risks to its bond rating in its statement, Governors Andrew Cuomo of New York and Chris Christie of New Jersey, who share oversight of the bi-state agency, released a joint statement in which they said agency officials may have such worries.

“While we understand the Port Authority leadership’s concerns about a potential downgrade to its bond rating if toll increases are not instituted, our primary concern with this proposal is its impact on our respective states’ residents and commercial users of the crossings,” they said. Cuomo is a Democrat and Christie is a Republican.

U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg, a New Jersey Democrat, called the Port Authority proposals “outrageous,” and “yet another assault on New Jersey’s commuters.” Increases that would be of even half the proposed rates “would be unacceptable,” he said.

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