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AAA Loses Bid to Reverse New York Bridge, Tunnel Toll Boost

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Feb. 6 (Bloomberg) -- Two New York-area auto clubs lost a bid to immediately reverse toll increases on bridges and tunnels imposed by the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey in September.

U.S. District Judge Richard Holwell today denied a request by AAA New York and AAA North Jersey to block collection of the toll increases, writing that AAA hadn’t shown a sufficient likelihood that it will win on its claim that the toll increases are being used illegally to subsidize the rebuilding of the World Trade Center.

“AAA alleges that the Port Authority is spending toll revenue on the World Trade Center, but has offered insufficient evidence to counter the Port Authority’s financial analyses,” Holwell wrote.

AAA sued in federal court in Manhattan Sept. 27 to roll back the toll increases at Port Authority-operated bridges and tunnels including the George Washington Bridge and the Holland and Lincoln tunnels. Earlier that month, the Port Authority raised the round-trip price for passenger cars using its E-Z Pass system to $7.50 from $6 during off-peak travel and to $9.50 from $8 during peak hours.

Evidence Exchange

In his ruling today, Holwell allowed AAA to continue its effort to have the toll increases declared illegal, declining the Port Authority’s request to dismiss the suit before trial. Holwell ruled that the parties can proceed with discovery, or the pretrial exchange of testimony and records.

Robert Sinclair Jr., a spokesman for AAA New York, said the ruling gives his group another chance to reverse the increases.

The Port Authority in August cited economic recession, increased security costs and the need to overhaul its facilities, in announcing proposed increases.

AAA claims the increases violate the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, the federal Highway Act of 1987 and court decisions that require the tolls on Port Authority bridges and tunnels to be “just and reasonable.”

The case is Automobile Club of New York Inc. v. Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, 11-cv-06746, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

To contact the reporter on this story: Bob Van Voris in New York at rvanvoris@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net.

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