Christie, Cuomo outline proposal for scaled back toll hike

The governors of New York and New Jersey late Thursday outlined a proposal for a scaled back Port Authority toll hike that would raise the cost to cross the Hudson by $1.50 initially and another $3 over the following four years.

Fares to ride the PATH train would increase 25 cents initially and then 25 cents per year for three years.

“This is a responsible alternative that balances the infrastructure needs of the region with toll and fare payers’ economic realities,” Gov. Chris Christie and Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a joint letter to the chairman and vice chairman of the Port Authority board.

In exchange for their support of the boost, the two governors are requiring an audit of the agency’s 10-year capital plan as well as a “top to bottom management review of the authority’s finances and operations.”

“The reports of cost overruns, excessive overtime and exorbitant spending must stop immediately,” the governors wrote, referring to a recent report from New York’s comptroller of massive overtime payments and other fiscal mismanagement at the Port Authority.

According to the letter, commissioners at the Port Authority have identified $5 billion in savings on the current capital plan, which will make the scaled back proposal feasible.

“As we said at the outset, we recognize the Port Authority is facing severe financial issues but so are families in the states of New York and New Jersey, and the answer cannot always be an indiscriminate and exorbitant increase in the cost to the toll payer,” the letter said. “As families must carefully and effectively manage their finances at this difficult time, so must government.”

Details of the plan:

 – Tolls on cars using EZ-Pass will increase by $1.50 in September 2011 and then an additional 75 cents in December of each year from 2012 to 2015.

– Toll on cars paying with cash will have the same increase but will be subject to an additional $2 penalty, (rounded up to the nearest whole dollar.)

– Trucks using EZ-Pass will pay an additional $2 per axle in September 2011, and an additional $2 per axle beginning each December from 2012 to 2015.

– Toll on trucks paying cash will increase by the same amounts but will be subject to an additional $3 per axle cash penalty.

– Fares on the PATH train will increase by 25 cents per year for the next four years.

As a result, the cost to cross the river would rise to $9.50 for EZ-pass users during peak hours initially and $12.50 by 2015.  During non-peak hours the toll would rise from $6 to $7.50 for EZ-pass users and to $10.50 by 2015.

Cash paying motorists would pay $11.50 initially and $14.50 by 2015.  The PATH fare would jump from $1.75 to $2 initially and rise to $2.75 by 2014.

The Port Authority board is scheduled to vote on the plan Friday at its public meeting.  both Christie and Cuomo have veto power over any increase so gaining buy-in from the governors was imperative.  That the two officials chose to scale back the proposed increase comes as little surprise as both men had said they believed the hike was too large.

Skeptics have believed since the initial annoucement that the governors have been following a script that would culminate with a scaled back increase.

Leaving a metting of the Somerset Democratic Committee, Democratic State Chairman John Wisniewski underscored that view, which he’s held from the start.

“I’m happy for the taxpayers that apparently what is a done deal will be more affordable but I question manufactured drama,” Wisniewski said.

Attached is a copy of the letter from the governors to the Port Authority board.

Christie, Cuomo outline proposal for scaled back toll hike