Drivers will wake up to a toll increase at bistate bridges and tunnels Sunday morning, when the second annual increment from last year’s record hike raises off-peak E-ZPass rates from $7.50 to $8.25 for cars and from $45 to $55 for five-axle trucks.
Come tomorrow morning, commuters will see peak tolls for cars rise by 75 cents, to $10.25, for E-ZPass users, and by a dollar for cash payers, to $13. Five-axle trucks crossing at peak times will be hit with a $10 increase, to $60 for E-ZPass subscribers and to $75 for big rig drivers paying cash.
Advocates for commuters and truckers had harsh words for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which is imposing today’s increase under a record multi-phase toll hike that began in September 2011.
“This toll hike plunges the knife deeper into the backs of motorists already overburdened by excess tolls, fees, surcharges, high gas prices and gas taxes and a nearly depleted state highway fund,” said Robert Sinclair Jr., a spokesman for AAA New York.
New York and North Jersey’s AAA clubs are suing the Port Authority to roll back the toll hike, which they say is being used illegally to fund redevelopment of the World Trade Center site, based on press releases and statements by agency officials justifying the hike before its approval in August 2011.
Since then, Port Authority lawyers have argued that tolls have been spent only on sorely needed transportation projects, and officials have adhered to the argument. Gov. Chris Christie and Gov. Andrew Cuomo consented to the multi-phase hike provided the agency conduct a review of its operations and spending, which has led to several agency reforms.
The Port Authority did not respond to the AAA’s recent criticism, though the agency says it has been limiting spending in general. On Friday, the Port Authority released a $2.57 billion preliminary operating budget for 2013 that is level with 2012.
“The proposed budget keeps administrative expenses virtually flat for a fifth consecutive year, maintains agency headcount at the lowest levels in four decades and cuts costs by reining in employee compensation and benefits,” the agency said in a statement accompanying the budget’s release.
A vote on the budget is scheduled for Thursday.