Over the weekend, U.S. Representatives Max Rose (D-South Brooklyn, Staten Island) announced a major agreement to bring split tolling to the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge with Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-Borough Park, Kensington, parts of Bay Ridge, Bensonhurst, Dyker Heights, Red Hook, Sunset Park, Midwood and parts of Manhattan), Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez (D-Brooklyn, LES, Queens), and Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Chairman Pat Foye at the Fort Wadsworth Visitor’s Center on Staten Island.
Split tolling would cut the current fares in half to be paid in both directions with the aim of leading to less congestion from out-of-state toll shoppers while increasing revenue to fund Staten Island and South Brooklyn transportation investments.
“The status quo is not working for Staten Islanders and South Brooklynites who are living through nightmare commutes every single day. We don’t have decades to wait, we need action—and this plan to bring Split Tolling to the Verrazzano will help get us thereby dramatically decreasing commuter traffic in Staten Island and Brooklyn, while also reinvesting future revenue into the buses and public transit options that Staten Island and South Brooklyn deserve,” said Rose.
The crossing for the iconic bridge shot up to staggering $19 from $17 for non-E-ZPass holders in late March, making it the highest toll in the United States.
According to Rose there are three keys to the new toll plan:
- Commuters won’t pay a cent more as the one-way toll will be split in half to be paid in both directions, with all resident and EZ Pass discounts remaining.
- Reduce congestion on the Staten Island Expressway by eliminating the free ride across the Verrazzano-Narrows-Bridge that out-of-state trucks and passengers used to go through New York City without paying their fair share.
- Increase transportation investments on Staten Island and in South Brooklyn. It is estimated that by cutting down on the toll evaders, this would raise $10-15 million in revenue per year. The MTA has committed to prioritize and increase investments on Staten Island and South Brooklyn in the upcoming 2020-2024 Capital Plan.
Currently, the bridge is the only in the country with federally mandated one-way tolling, first instituted in the 1980s to cut down on traffic backups from toll gantries.
With modern-day electronic tolling technology, the need for one-way tolling no longer exists—and by cutting out the loophole that drivers use to avoid paying or minimize the costs of tolls, enacting split tolling would cut down on congestion and pollution on Staten Island and could lead to $10 to $15 million in additional annual MTA revenue, according to Rose’s office.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) leadership will support the proposal and is committed to investments in public transportation on Staten Island and in South Brooklyn in its 2020-2024 Capital Plan.
The new proposal was applauded by South Brooklyn local lawmakers including State Senators Diane Savino and Andrew Gounardes, Assemblywoman Mathylde Frontus and City Council member Justin Brannan.
“As someone who represents both Staten Island and Southern Brooklyn, I know firsthand how difficult, inconvenient, and tiresome it is to sit in dead-stop traffic just to drive a few miles. Changing to a two-way tolling system on the Verrazzano will alleviate the traffic nightmare in this entire region, allowing people to spend more time with their families and less time on the road,” said Savino.
“This small change will go a long way to reducing traffic coming over the bridge, congesting our highways and causing backups on our local roads. Restoring two-way toll collection will also stop cars and trucks from evading toll collection and bring much-needed revenue back into the MTA’s coffers to help fund the critical mass transit infrastructure needs we have,” said Gounardes.
“Reinstating the two-way toll on the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge conveys consensus among us elected officials in the area when it comes to finding the balance between helping our constituents and ensuring that we continue to raise revenue to maintain and improve the conditions of our local transportation system,” said Frontus.
“Two-way tolling is a common-sense plan that will reduce traffic congestion and pollution on our local streets. Gone will be the days of toll-shopping trucks snaking their way through our community and choking our streets just to save a few bucks. Now, the only reason we’ll see them in Bay Ridge or Dyker Heights is if they need to make a local delivery,” said Brannan.
The 2020-2024 MTA capital plan is set to be released in October of this year and will detail capital investments being made across the MTA’s entire service area. The plan will be reviewed by the Capital Plan Review Board and voted on by the MTA Board.