Easy rider: Bill to lower Verrazzano Bridge toll for some Brooklyn drivers sails through state Senate

It’s only fare: Legislation to reduce the fare for Brooklynites who frequently cross the Verrazzano-Narrows bridge has passed the State Senate. The measure now awaits a vote in the State Assembly.
Photo By Steve Solomonson

Going to Staten Island may soon become slightly less painful.

The state Senate passed a bill that would reduce the toll on the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge by more than half for Kings County drivers who frequently cross the span into Richmond County.

Sponsored by Sen. Andrew Gounardes (D–Bay Ridge), the Senate bill passed the upper chamber by a decisive 55–2 margin on May 30.

The measure offers Brooklyn drivers who cross the span 10 times per month using E-ZPass a discounted toll of $5.50, matching the reduced fare that Staten Island residents already enjoy when crossing the two-and-a-half-mile-long, double-decker bridge.

Kings County drivers passing into Staten Island currently pay $12.24 for the Verrazzano’s one-way toll when using E-ZPass, and a whopping $19 when relying on the city’s cashless toll technology.

The bill’s passage follows an MTA toll hike that jacked the Verrazzano’s toll up to the second highest in the country in March, making it second in price only to Virginia’s 23-miles-long Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, which costs an astronomical $36 round trip at peak hours.

All eyes now turn to Albany’s lower house, where the bill sponsored by Assemblywoman Mathylde Frontus (D–Coney Island) continues to languish committee, although the lawmaker’s chief of staff expressed confidence that the measure will pass and become law in the wake of the Thursday’s senate vote.

“We’re optimistic,” said Michael Decillis. “It sailed through the Senate, so that’s a good sign.”

The proposal mirrors the city’s decision to eliminate the $2.29 E-ZPass toll on the Cross Bay Bridge for all Queens Residents last April.

At a press event announcing his scheme to slash the toll for Brooklyn drivers in April, Gounardes blasted the Verrazzano’s exorbitant tax, which has more than doubled since 2008.

“For the thousands of Brooklyn residents who rely on the bridge for travel to work, school and medical appointments, these outrageous rates are unaffordable, unacceptable, and highlight the gross inequities of New York’s transit system,” he said.

Freshman federal Rep. Max Rose, who represents both sides of the bridge, applauded the state Senate on Twitter for passing the bill to even the fares between his constituents.

“This is incredible news,” he said. “We are one community, with family and friends, jobs and appointments on both sides of the Verrazzano. This is a huge step towards providing much needed relief to so many Brooklynites.”

Should the Assembly approve their version of the legislation, it would go to the Governor’s desk to be signed into law.

Reach reporter Aidan Graham at agraham@schnepsmedia.com or by calling (718) 260–4577. Follow him at twitter.com/aidangraham95.

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