Verrazzano two-way tolling passes US Congress

suicide prevention fence
The Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge.
File photo by Steve Solomonson

The US Congress passed legislation to reinstate two-way tolls on the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge, three federal Brooklyn pols announced Tuesday.

The House’s Fiscal Year 2020 bi-partisan spending package known as the Omnibus Budget Package includes language ending a three-decade ban on two-way tolling at the massive span between Brooklyn and Staten Island, which will ease traffic, cut back on out-of-state truck traffic entering Manhattan via the bridge, and bring much-needed revenue to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, according to one pol.

“Restoring split-tolling 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, which no longer will avoid a toll entering New York City via Staten Island or dodge tolls on the Hudson River Bridge and tunnel crossings,” said Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D–Borough Park).

The senior Brooklyn Democrat pushed for the legislation along with representatives Max Rose (D–Bay Ridge) and Nydia Velázquez (D-Sunset Park).

Currently, drivers fork over $19 on each trip from Brooklyn to Staten Island, or $12.24 for travelers using the E-ZPass system and $5.50 for Staten Island residents, while drivers coming to Kings County cross the bridge for free.

The legislation will allow the transit authority — which determines the tolls — to cut the rates in half, with drivers paying half those fares each way, i.e. $9.50 for standard trips, $6.12 with E-ZPass and $2.25 for residents of the Rock.

A cadre of state legislators are trying to get the Authority to also introduce reduced tolls for Brooklynites who cross the span 10 times or more a month.

The MTA’s chief Pat Foye estimates this move will produce between $10-15 million in additional annual revenue for the agency and officials hope it will reduce heavy trucks’s wear and tear on many of Brooklyn and Staten Island’s roadways.

“All New Yorkers will reap the benefits of the restoration of two-way toll collection, from reduced wear and tear on our bridges and tunnels and fewer trucks on the Staten Island Expressway, Gowanus Expressway, Manhattan Bridge and Canal & Broome Streets in Lower Manhattan,” Nadler said.

Brooklynites have also called on the city to reduce the lanes on the beleaguered Brooklyn-Queens Expressway’s repair in light of the two-way tolls along with other measures designed to curb traffic, such as congestion pricing.

The Verrazzano is the only bridge in the country with federally-mandated one-way tolling, which dates back to the 1980s when then-Representative Guy Molinari (R–Staten Island) introduced the law due to traffic build up and pollution around the toll booths at the Staten Island side, but electronic tolling has since made that law outdated, according to another federal politician.

“The implementation of electronic tolling made the old system outdated, so it’s about time that split-tolling was reinstated on the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge,” said Senator Chuck Schumer.

The Senate is expected to pass the budget and President Donald Trump will sign it into law as soon as Friday, after which it is up to the MTA to introduce the new tolls, according to Rose’s spokesman Jonas Edwards-Jenks.