Another Attempt to Toll the East River Bridges

The bridges over the East and Harlem Rivers, unlike other bridges and tunnels in the region, operate without tolls. Transit advocate Sam Schwartz has proposed a plan to toll them and apply revenues to fund transit and upgrade roads and bridges.

2 minute read

November 27, 2013, 5:00 AM PST

By Irvin Dawid

Matt Flegenheimer writes that "Move NY, the group behind the campaign, has billed the new plan as 'fair tolling and transportation reinvestment,' adding that its details would not be made final until after a series of public forums next year."

While the toll amounts could change, an example on Mr. Schwartz’s website included $5.33 E-ZPass tolls on the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge and the Brooklyn, Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridges — all of which are now free. The one-way rate to cross the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge would decline to $5.66, from $10.66...

Some background: On June 27, Alan Neuhauser of DNAinfo wrote, "Traffic guru Sam Schwartz and consultant Alex Matthiessen have founded the Move NY campaign to promote their "Master Plan for the NYC Region’s Transportation System,” a years-long campaign to reduce traffic and expand mass transit by transforming how New York charges its commuters.

However, this isn't the first go at it. After former Mayor Bloomberg's congestion pricing plan died in 2008, "an attempt to toll the free East & Harlem River bridges also failed", as described here in May, 2010 by Bruce Schaller, deputy commissioner in the New York City department of transportation.

The Bloomberg 2008 congestion pricing plan, which included new East and Harlem River tolls, even gained the support of then-Gov. David A. Paterson. But a lot has changed since then, particularly in who occupies the mayor's and governor's seats, which may be reason enough to cast doubt on the Move NY plan.

Some city and state lawmakers remain deeply skeptical of adjusting the toll structure. Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio, when he was on the Council, voted against Mr. Bloomberg’s plan in 2008. He said during a Democratic primary debate this year that he opposed tolling the East River bridges.

A spokeswoman for Mr. de Blasio said he had been briefed on the new proposal, but she declined further comment.

And the plan's outlook may not be brighter with "Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who drew the ire of transportation advocates earlier this month after vetoing legislation intended to discourage Albany from redirecting dedicated transit funds. His office did not respond to requests for comment on the proposal," writes Flegenheimer.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013 in The New York Times - N.Y. / Region

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