By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
A lawmaker who has constituents on both sides of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge blasted the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board’s vote to raise the toll to $15.00.
Calling Wednesday’s MTA vote “an outrage,” U.S. Rep. Michael Grimm (R-Brooklyn-Staten Island) said the toll increase is a blow to families and businesses still trying to recover from Super-storm Sandy.
“Staten Island residents with family members in Brooklyn and Brooklynites with families in Staten Island, have already cut back visits on account of the tolls, and this hike will make those visits even fewer. This rings true for seniors on a fixed income who may simply want to cross the bridge to have lunch with their children or grandchildren. The tolls will make them think twice,” Grimm said.
The MTA board voted Dec. 19 to raise tolls on area bridges and tunnels. The board also voted to increase bus and subway fares.
Grimm charged that the MTA’s problems stem from too much spending by the agency and that raising fares and tolls will not remedy the situation. “The MTA board has made it crystal clear that we are nothing more to them than an ATM machine to pay for its complete inability to work within a budget,” he said.
“In New York City we pride ourselves on being the best, but having the highest bridge toll in the world is a superlative that we could all do without,” Grimm said.
Grimm and two fellow elected officials, state Sen. Marty Golden (R-Bay Ridge-southern Brooklyn) and Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis (R-Bay Ridge-Staten Island) mounted a fight at the 11th hour in an attempt to convince the MTA not to raise the rates. The trio wrote a letter to MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota outlining their objections to the increases.
“No time has been better than now for the MTA to show New Yorkers that it does in fact account for the personal financial responsibility of their customers when making such decisions. It is something that New Yorkers are not willing to accept. We hear this in our community, along our commercial avenues and in our
homes. We ask you to oppose this plan and look forward to working with you to create a more fiscally responsible approach that will be more acceptable to our constituents," the lawmakers wrote in their letter.
The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, which opened in 1964, had an original toll of 50 cents-one way. The two-way toll was $1.00. The current $13.00 toll and the soon-to-be $15.00 toll are also one way. Drivers pay as they travel westbound. Motorists traveling eastbound drive for free. The one-way toll system was instituted in 1986.
The $15.00 toll will begin on March 1.
Following the meeting where the fare hike vote took place, MTA board members defended their move as being a necessary evil, the New York Daily News reported. Lhota, who announced after the meeting that he was resigning to mull his future, said the MTA needs more financial assistance from the state. Lhota is rumored to be considering a run for mayor in 2013.