NEWARK – At 8 this morning, only four opponents of the proposed and severe Port Authority of New York and New Jersey toll hike had found their way to the authority’s remote hangar near Newark International Airport. Several members of the media said they were driving around for some time before they located the near-empty hangar; the location isn’t listed on Google Maps, or even paper maps.
Having no problem finding the place were orange-shirted labor workers who lined the entrance. Labor unions are joining together to give the generally unpopular toll increase a backbone of support.
The proposed hike would raise rush hour tolls to $14 for EZ-Pass users and $17 for cash-paying motorists by 2014.
Only 17 people spoke in Newark today before a Port Authority moderator, stenographer, videographer, sound engineer, and timekeeper. The opponents of the plan were outnumbered by the agency’s clerical staff.
One of the opponents was a truck driver who said his $3,000-per-month EZ-Pass bill was going to skyrocket.
But his denouncement was figuratively drowned out by union tradesmen and their support from the wings.
“Nobody’s saving any money by not fixing these bridges,” said one such laborer, who mentioned the time (which equals money) spent by commuters sitting in traffic for construction delays.
Clifford Heath, vice president of N.J. Alliance for Action, agreed. Heath remembers crossing the George Washington Bridge in 1931 after its opening, and said the structure is in need of repair now.
Some of the other projects which spurred the toll hike include the raising of the Bayonne Bridge to accommodate larger shipping vessels and the fast-track rebuilding of the World Trade Center. The latter has been criticized by Gov. Chris Christie for extreme cost overruns.
“I’m sure the (Port Authority) commissioners had to wrestle with how to get this whole thing done,” Heath said today. “If we don’t raise the Bayonne Bridge, we’re going to choke off the whole commerce of the area.”
Other public hearings were held this morning in New York City, Long Island, and Jersey City, and four more hearings are scheduled for this evening in Fort Lee, Jersey City, New York City, and Jamaica, NY.