With $2 million in hidden payments here, $70 million in risky investments there, an extra $5 million in salaries and a multi-million dollar toll hike to pay for it, it seems the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey throws around money like a Wal-Mart shopper on Black Friday.
And as if the toll hike weren’t enough, it seems someone at the PANYNJ thought it a smart idea to pull at the heart strings of tri-state residents still troubled by Sept. 11 and claim the money would go in part to the redevelopment of the World Trade Center. Works better than saying they need it to pay for overtime, sick pay and hidden payments to employees, doesn’t it?
But now, according to a report by the Star Ledger, the PA has gone back on that promise after a lawsuit by AAA challenged the hike on the grounds that the trade center is not a transportation project. In a reponse to the suit, PA attorneys now say proceeds from the hike will go entirely to funding transportation projects and not for the WTC.
That wasn’t the story, however, in August when the toll increase was first floated.
“Faced with three unprecedented challenges at once – (1) a historic economic recession that has sharply decreased revenue below projections, (2) steep increases in post-9/11 security costs, which have nearly tripled, and the overall cost of the WTC rebuilding, and (3) the need for the largest overhaul of facilities in the agency’s 90-year history – the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey today proposed a two-phase toll and fare increase to fully fund a new $33 billion ten-year capital plan, which will generate 167,000 jobs,” a release from the PA said.
PANYNJ Board Chairman David Samson reiterated the stance on August 19, when the board voted to approve the hike.
According to the Ledger, AAA has jumped on the discrepancy as evidence the PA misled the public about the need for the hike and at least one lawmaker is calling for a public clarification as well as further public hearings before the next phase of the toll hike takes affect.