JERSEY CITY, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – Commuters accustomed to forking it over at various Hudson River crossings told the Port Authority Of New York and New Jersey what they think of proposed toll and fare increases.

The Port Authority held a round of public hearings Tuesday on the proposed increases, which will affect bridges, tunnels and PATH trains.

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1010 WINS’ Steve Sandberg reports: Both Sides Sound Off In Jersey City

Union laborers donned in bright orange shirts came by the busloads to voice their support of the hikes in Jersey City, while many commuters spoke out in opposition.

“We cannot afford not to make these investments because we need the jobs,” one worker said.

In Newark alone, 40 unemployed construction workers were apparently bused in to offer their support for the agency’s proposal.

“If we don’t do the maintenance that we need and the upgrades that we need, we’re all going to eventually stop working in this area,” construction worker James Johnson said.

Union members pack a hearing on Port Authority toll hikes - Jersey City, NJ - Aug 16, 2011 (credit: Peter Haskell / WCBS 880)

Union members pack a hearing on Port Authority toll hikes - Jersey City, NJ - Aug 16, 2011 (credit: Peter Haskell / WCBS 880)

“If we have urgent capital needs that will help the region grow and prosper, we should act like grown-ups and work to meet them,” another worker, Robert foster, said.

Those speaking out against the proposal said the unions were being used as pawns to exploit other working people who can’t afford the increase.

“This is outrageous and greedy,” one woman said.

One Jersey City man even called the public hearings a sham.

“They’re being held in a place that nobody can find, they’re being held at a time that nobody can come,” he said.

“I’m a retiree. it would cost me, as my son said, $20 to go to Brooklyn to visit my relatives,” Joy Atkin said in Newark.”I cant afford it.”

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About 100 people packed the hearing at the Port Ivory facility on Staten Island — the majority of them from the union.

“Nobody wants to pay more for everyday activities but there’s also no such thing as a free lunch,” Michael Maguire, of the Mason Tenders District Council, said.

The agency says it needs the additional revenue the hikes will generate to pay for a new 10-year capital investment plan, maintain security, and complete the over-budget World Trade Center.

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Among the details of the proposed hike:

  • EZ-Pass peak tolls would increase from $8 to $12 this year, and to $14 in 2014
  • EZ-Pass off-peak tolls would increase from $6 to $10 this year, and to $12 in 2014.
  • Cash tolls would increase from $8 to $15 this year, and to $17 in 2014.

Governors Andrew Cuomo and Chris Christie are both opposed to the proposal. Cuomo called it “A non-starter for obvious reasons,” while Christie said simply “You’re kidding, right?”

WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell: Compelling Arguments On Both Sides

Some motorists are disgusted by the toll hike.

“Unemployment is up and they’re continuing to raise everything,” David Lechese said. “What do we do to survive everyday? Gasoline prices, tolls, public transportation, food costs, energy costs — everything is going up.”

Angela McBryan said she is barely scraping by as it is and now the Port Authority wants to take any spare cash she might have.

“We can’t afford to go over the bridge so we just avoid it,”McBryan said.

CBS2 HD reported that the Port Authority is actually seeking a lower hike, and proposed such a steep raise to provide elected officials the political breathing room to approve any increase at all.

The plan goes up for vote on Friday. The governors can veto it within 10 days.

WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond On A Unique Protest

The Port Authority is “nickling and diming” its customers, so it’s going to give them the same treatment on Wednesday, says protest organizer Paul Di Donato of Staten Island.

He wants anyone who can to pay their tolls with pennies, nickels, and dimes.

Di Donato, who works at a New Jersey pharmaceutical company, is spending his spare time getting the word out on Facebook.

“There’s over 500 in the group,” he says.

Di Donato knows other motorists will be annoyed by the slowdown, but he hopes increased awareness over the hikes will cause them to speak up.

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What do you think about the proposed hikes? Sound off in our comments section.