Belle of Liberty

Letting Freedom Ring

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Making Jersey Drivers Pay the Toll for the World Trade Center

With the 10th Anniversary of the September 11th attacks less than a month away, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey had announced that the $8 toll on the Hudson River Crossings will increase to $12. N.J. Gov. Christie and N.Y. Gov. Cuomo announced that they had approved the Port Authority’s toll hike request, but at reduced increase, to be implemented incrementally, in order to pay for the restoration of the World Trade Center site.

According to the Wall Street Journal, instead of the prospect of a $12 toll on the George Washington Bridge, a hike of $4, the new proposal would increase E-ZPass tolls on the George Washington Bridge, above, and other Hudson River crossings by $1.50 beginning next month, a much smaller jump than originally sought by the Port Authority.

“The cost of traveling between New York and New Jersey by car will likely go up next month, but not by as much as previously proposed.

“The two governors who control the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey on Thursday evening said they are aiming to raise tolls on the agency's Hudson River crossings by $1.50 next month for drivers paying with E-ZPass, a significantly smaller increase than the agency sought earlier this month.

“Tolls would then rise by 75 cents in each of the following years until 2015, for a total increase of $4.50. The previous plan included a $2 increase in 2014, for a total hike of $6. Fares on the PATH train would increase 25 cents every year for the next four years, according to the joint proposal by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. The agency had previously proposed hiking fares on the PATH train to $2.75 from $1.75.

“The new plan, which will likely be approved on Friday by the authority's board, comes after a familiar trans-Hudson dance that often takes place between the Port Authority and the two governors who control it.

“First, the Port Authority proposed a larger-than-expected increase. Then the governors express outrage and dismay, and propose a much lower increase—a figure much closer to what the Port Authority had been considering internally for the past year.”

This kind of sky-is-falling tactic used to be called a bait-and-switch, making New Jersey drivers relieved that their commuting costs will only rise by a $1.50 per month, instead of $4. Small comfort in a bad economy.

No one needs to tell New Jersey commuters – or New York City residents – that the World Trade Center needs to be rebuilt. We’ve known that for ten long, sad years. We’ve watched and listened as the Port Authority, Larry Silverstein, and the Lower Manhattan Community Development Board dillied and dallied, argued, negotiated, threatened, cajoled, and dithered as the years past and the costs ran higher than the skyscrapers they were building.

We citizens knew the construction should have been completed at least five years ago. It wasn’t and the costs predictably mounted, exponentially. No one listened to the public because a bureaucracy doesn’t need to listen to the citizens. We’re expected to keep quiet, pay the bills, and be happy that the tolls aren’t as high as they had threatened they would be. Aren’t we the luckies?

Freedom isn’t free. We Americans know that. Maybe that’s why they decided not to name the centerpiece tower, The Freedom Tower. It’s anything but. No one expected it to be free. We expected we’d have to pay; we didn’t expect that the governors of New Jersey and New York would be wagging their fingers at us for delays that weren’t our fault.

The only problem New Jerseyans have is that this is pretty much a one-sided deal. New Jersey sends the brunt of commuters through the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels and over the George Washington Bridge. Fittingly, the tolls are on our side of the Hudson River. Where is the average New Yorker’s share in this venture? The World Trade Center is on their side of the river.

Perhaps Manhattan paid enough of a price having the 9/11 attacks occur on their island. In the end, it’s the bureaucrats and politicians, the lawyers and community organizers who held up construction. Yet they’ll have front row seats at the ceremonies when the site is officially opened.

New Jersey, which had a front row seat to the horrible spectacle on September 11th, will be in the back of the bus.


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