Thursday, May 5, 2016

Times Newsweekly Editorial - End the Cross Bay Toll


Cross off the Cross Bay toll already!

There is no greater example of Queens residents being nickel-and-dimed by government more than the Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge.

What purpose does it serve to put a toll between two areas of the same borough other than to annoy Queens residents and bilk them out of their hard-earned money?

The Cross Bay Bridge has connected drivers between Broad Channel and the Rockaways for more than 40 years in its present form. It’s the only bridge connecting Queens with the rest of the peninsula, but it’s not exactly a cash cow for the MTA.

In a 2015 report, the MTA projected toll revenue from the bridge that year would be about $16.87 million. That accounts for slightly less than 1 percent of the $1.7 billion total combined projected revenue for all MTA bridges and tunnels, including the WhitestoneThrogs Neck and RFK bridges, and the Queens-Midtown Tunnel.
The low toll revenue for the Cross Bay reflects the discounts and rebates the MTA provides Broad Channel and Rockaway residents who use EZPass and regularly cross the bridge to get around the area. These drivers pay $1.36 per trip across the bridge, but even at a 66 percent discount from the $4 toll that the rest of us pay, they’re paying way too much to cross it.

Let’s face it, the Cross Bay Bridge is not as complex as the Triborough Bridge (a combination of three bridges under one name) or an architectural wonder like theVerrazano Bridge (which, at one time, was the longest suspension bridge in the world). The Cross Bay is a mile-long, six-lane, steel-and-concrete overpass over a narrow portion of Jamaica Bay — and it’s not so complex to maintain that it requires toll revenue on top of tax dollars already in place for infrastructure maintenance.

Beyond that, the Cross Bay Bridge toll barrier is an obstacle for business and economic growth in the one area of Queens that is seriously dependent upon summer tourism.
One lawmaker, Assemblyman Mike Miller, wants to extend the toll discount that Rockaway residents have to seniors in other parts of Queens. We agree with the intent, but we disagree with the concept — because there shouldn’t be a toll on the Cross Bay Bridge for anyone, regardless of age or where they happen to live.

We challenge the city and the state, which have huge budgets in the tens of billions of dollars, to find $17 million somewhere for the MTA to finally get rid of this asinine Cross Bay Bridge toll. We challenge the city and state to end this unfair tax on the Rockaways and all Queens residents!

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