Legislation sponsored by New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg and Rep. Michael Grimm of New York is moving through Congress that would take some control away from the Port Authority and provide oversight by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
When it costs $12 to drive your car across a bridge in America, something is wrong,” Lautenberg said in a statement on his website. ”While the Port Authority and the two states are struggling to explain why these dramatic hikes were imposed, commuters are suffering.”
“This bipartisan legislation brings oversight of toll rates on our nation’s federally funded highway system back into the Department of Transportation where it belongs,” said Grimm in a statement.
AAA, which is suing the Port Authority over the toll hikes put in place last fall, is urging commuters to contact lawmakers asking them to support the bill.
On its website, the auto agency says: “The Commuter Protection Act would put taxpayers back in the driver’s seat by allowing greater oversight of tolling agencies that view toll revenue as an easy source to fix other, unrelated budgetary problems.”
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In their lawsuit, AAA says the extra toll money is illegally subsidizing World Trade Center construction and says on its website “allowing toll revenue to be used for non-transportation related projects is bad policy, especially when infrastructure needs are so significant.”
The Port Authority says it won’t comment on pending legislation, but drivers say the hikes have taken a toll on their wallets.
“It’s very expensive now. For us, most customers, we pay the tolls, we pay the toll from our tips,” said cab driver Ahmed Khodeir. “We make less money because the toll going to be expensive for everyone.”
The bills now moving through both chambers of Congress contain a provision that would allow the U.S. DOT to decide if tolls are “just and reasonable.” If the federal agency determines they are not, the DOT secretary could institute a more reasonable toll.
The bill would also insure that when tolls are upped, the money would only go to transportation-related projects and nowhere else.
For more information about the bill, click here.
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