More fare: Local pols push for two-way Verrazzano toll

Verrazano-Narrows Bridge no longer accepting cash payments
Photo by Georgine Benvenuto

They want it both ways.

Drivers will soon pay tolls in both directions on the Verrazzano—Narrows Bridge, if a group of local politicians have their way.

Federal legislation introduced by three Kings County lawmakers would cut commuter fares in half, to be paid in both directions on the bridge.

Currently, drivers fork over $19 on each trip from Brooklyn to Staten Island, or $12.24 for travelers using the E-ZPass system, whereas drivers can enter Brooklyn from the island borough free of charge. The current system allows out-of-state commuters to use the bridge as a cheap entry to the City, said one rep.

“The restoration of toll collection in both directions, using electronic tolling that does not require stops at a toll plaza, will greatly improve traffic and congestion in Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan, while also capturing new vital funding for the MTA from out-of-state trucks, who no longer will avoid a toll entering New York City via Staten Island,” said Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-Borough Park).

Nadler presented the legislation at an April 28 press conference at the Wadsworth Visitor’s Center on Staten Island with fellow Reps. Max Rose (D–Bay Ridge) and Nydia Velázquez (D–Sunset Park), along with the chairman of the MTA, who called the current toll system unnecessary.

“Given today’s technology, there is no reason to require tolls only in one direction on this important crossing, and we look forward to rationalizing the collections so they match every other tolled-bridge in the nation, helping to fund the next MTA capital plan including much-needed investments in Staten Island and Southern Brooklyn,” said Patrick Foye.

Foye estimated that implementing two-way tolling would provide the MTA with an additional $10 to $15 million funds annually.

Rose, the freshman congressman who represents both sides of the bridge, said charging commuters from the island borough to Brooklyn would reduce excessive amounts of traffic.

“Staten Island and South Brooklyn have been used as a cheap thoroughfare for far too long,” he said. “The status quo is not working for Staten Islanders and South Brooklynites who are living through nightmare commutes every single day.”

Two-way tolling would discourage out-of-state truck drivers from entering southern Brooklyn in an effort to skirt the fares of other throughways, causing severe congestion in residential areas, according to one City Councilman, who applauded the federal legislation.

“Gone will be the days of toll-shopping trucks snaking their way through our community and choking our streets just to save a few bucks,” said Justin Brannan (D–Bay Ridge). “Now, the only reason we’ll see them in Bay Ridge or Dyker Heights is if they need to make a local delivery.”

The two-way toll effort comes after a recent push by a group of state legislators to provide Brooklyn residents who frequently cross the bridge a reduced fare of $5.50, a discount already provided to State Island locals.

After sponsoring that legislation earlier this month, Assemblywoman Mathylde Frontus (D-Coney Island) said a two-way toll was necessary for balancing the need for additional MTA revenue while helping local residents.

“Reinstating the two-way toll on the Verrazzano—Narrows Bridge conveys consensus among us elected officials in the area when it comes to finding the balance between helping our constituents and ensuring that we continue to raise revenue to maintain and improve the conditions of our local transportation system,” she said.

Reach reporter Aidan Graham at agrah[email protected]hnepsmedia.com or by calling (718) 260–4577. Follow her at twitter.com/aidangraham95.