Local politicians and transit officials are calling on the federal government to approve a new toll system for drivers using the Verrazzano Bridge, saying it will reduce congestion, generate revenue and create jobs on Staten Island.
Currently, only drivers headed into Staten Island are charged for crossing the bridge, at a price of $19 dollars, making it the most expensive toll in the country. But cars crossing into Brooklyn can do so for free. The disparity has resulted in “toll evaders,” who drive long, circuitous routes to avoid the Verrazzano.
Congressman Max Rose, whose district covers Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn, has proposed charging drivers $9.50 in each direction.
“Out-of-state folks are using the one-way toll to sneak into Manhattan and leave without paying a dime while the rest of us get hammered every single day,” said Rose in a press conference on Sunday.
The Congressman, who penned an op-ed on his toll split proposal in the Staten Island Advance last week, said he intends to attach his legislation to a forthcoming Transportation, Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill.
The Verrazzano is the only bridge in the country with a federally regulated toll structure. Beyond improved traffic flow, the MTA and local representatives like Rose and fellow U.S. Representatives Jerrold Nadler and Nydia Velazquez, are advocating for the toll split as a way to increase revenue: it’s estimated that this change would bring between $10 million and $15 million more dollars annually for the MTA.
When the Verrazzano Bridge first opened in 1964, a two-way toll system was in place. But in 1986, a federal law prohibited the MTA from collecting tolls from drivers on the bridge into Brooklyn because of concerns about traffic congestion caused by the time waiting for manual toll payments.
“Given today’s technology, there is no reason to require tolls only in one direction on this important crossing, and we look forward to rationalizing the collections so they match every other tolled-bridge in the nation, helping to fund the next MTA capital plan including much-needed investments in Staten Island and Southern Brooklyn,” MTA Chairman Patrick Foye said in a statement.
Rose hopes to get the plan approved by the end of the year. After that, it’s expected to take another 12 months to actually implement the new two-way toll system on the bridge.