Job-killing toll hikes

We must undo PA hit on SI

Last Updated: 11:55 PM, January 18, 2012
Posted: 11:07 PM, January 18, 2012
The Port Authority’s massive toll hikes are bad news for just about everyone — but they’re a job-killing disaster for Staten Island. Changing this situation is my absolute No. 1 local priority.
Gov. Cuomo talked a lot about jobs in his budget address this week; too bad he wasn’t thinking about jobs when he (along with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie) OK’d the hikes last year.
Staten Island has long been the “forgotten borough” when it comes to things like public transportation, road repair, health care and even snow removal. The only time we’re not forgotten is when it’s time to pay taxes or tolls.
Brutal: The Port Authority’s soaring tolls are rough on motorists and deadly for Staten Island businesses.
Warzer jaff
Brutal: The Port Authority’s soaring tolls are rough on motorists and deadly for Staten Island businesses.
Now we’re the piggy bank for PA debt and mismanagement. We’ll see little if any benefit from the latest toll hikes (most of that will go to the World Trade Center project), but we sure are paying for it. The people of Staten Island feel like Cuomo — the only New York official with the authority to stop the tolls — has sold us out.
Staten Island is the only borough where you must pay a toll to commute to another borough by car. It’s $13 to cross from Brooklyn over the Verrazano Bridge, and another toll coming in over any of the three bridges from New Jersey.
In September, the Port Authority hiked those New York-New Jersey tolls from $8 to $12 for a car. By 2015, it will rise to $15.
It’s even worse for truck drivers and the businesses that rely on them daily. Under the toll hikes, five-axle trucks that once paid $40 will have to pay up to $105 by 2015; six-axle trucks, $126. In our struggling economy, that is an unreasonable business expense to incur. In fact, it’s too hefty for a number of businesses located on Staten Island; many are already making plans to leave the borough — taking local jobs with them.
The hikes are almost certain to put Staten Island’s New York Container Terminal out of business: They just add too much to the cost of shipping through there (something you’d expect the Port Authority to have realized in advance). That’s hundreds of high-paying jobs right there.
Meanwhile, the PA is moving ahead with plans to raise the Bayonne Bridge to allow for bigger ships and more trade to “local ports” — but the toll hikes guarantee all that new business, and the jobs and tax revenue that accompany it, will go to New Jersey.
The rest of New York City will pay, too. The city’s spent $700 million on a program to remove trash via the Container Terminal. When the terminal goes bust, that investment’s lost.
A long list of federal, state and local elected officials have joined me in the fight against these outrageous toll hikes. I’ve filed an amicus brief in support of AAA’s lawsuit against the toll hikes, and introduced the Commuter Protection Act with New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg to end the PA’s unchecked authority to raise tolls and grant national toll-oversight powers to the federal Transportation Department.
And I’m talking regularly with Patrick Foye, the new Port Authority executive director. He’s a man of honor and integrity, and I’m confident that he will be able to work with us to find a solution that provides Staten Island with some relief.
We Staten Islanders have joined with the truckers and business owners to rally against the hikes, recognizing they are the backbone of our local economy. We’ll continue to fight with every tool at our disposal to overturn these unjust hikes and preserve local jobs. Staten Island is tired of being an afterthought, and we’re not going to take it anymore.
Rep. Michael Grimm (R-SI/B’klyn) is a former undercover FBI agent and small-business owner.
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