Tuesday, June 07, 2011

The Port Authority Plans 25% Hikes In Tolls Citing Shortfalls and WTC Construction

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is expected to raise tolls on the bistate agency's bridges and tunnels by the end of the year. The tolls would likely rise to $10 from $8 and off-peak discounts are likely to be cut. PATH fares are also likely to increase.
The agency runs the George Washington Bridge and Lincoln and Holland tunnels as well as the Goethals and Bayonne bridges and the Outerbridge Crossing.

The same tolls apply on all six crossings.

Peak hours are defined as 6 to 9 a.m. and 4 to 7 p.m. on weekdays, and noon to 8 p.m. on weekends.

A toll hike would likely come with a proposal to raise fares on the PATH train.

It would not, however, include an increase in surcharges at the agency's airports or seaports.

Once flush with cash, the agency's coffers have taken huge hits in recent years and it badly needs the $300 million the $2 increase would bring in.

The biggest financial drains have been the growing expense of rebuilding the World Trade Center, which came as the recession caused a massive decline in tolls and other fees from commuting, air travel and maritime cargo.
The Port Authority cites construction at Ground Zero as part of the reason it needs the higher fares and both Gov. Chris Christie and Gov. Andrew Cuomo are expected to sign off on the hikes.

What doesn't get mentioned is the fact that the serious cost overruns at the PATH hub at Ground Zero are a major reason that the Port Authority is in dire need of the toll hike. Originally expected to cost $2.2 billion, the project is now running upwards of $3.4 billion, and is likely to be much closer to $3.8 billion.

Considering that the PANY is over its original budget estimate by more than $1.2 billion (or $400 million if you're working from their more recent figures), that $400 million would have more than mitigated the need for fare hikes.

This shows that the Port Authority was not serious about containing costs on the PATH hub, and that inability is leading to commuters having to incur additional costs to cover the agency's operating and capital budget programs. The Port Authority has repeatedly claimed that it was taking steps to contain costs, but that doesn't appear to have occurred, particularly with the Transit Hub.

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