Two Northeast lawmakers aren't too pleased with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey for raising tolls to cross bridges into New York City. They are angry enough that they want the federal government to step in. The Port Authority announced in August that cash tolls for cars will go from $8.00 to $15.00 by 2015. Five-axle trucks that currently pay $40 dollars will have to pay up to $125.
Sen. Frank Lautenberg, a Democrat from New Jersey, and Rep. Michael Grimm, a Republican from New York, introduced legislation to restore the Transportation Department's authority to determine whether toll hikes are "just and reasonable." The toll-review authority was eliminated in 1987 under a deregulation law. Without going into detail, Lautenberg and Grimm cited "fiscal mismanagement" at the Port Authority as one reason their bill is needed. The measure would order a report from the Government Accountability Office on the transparency and accountability of tolling authority budgeting practices.
When it proposed the toll hike, the Port Authority cited a perfect storm of "unprecedented challenges" that included an economic recession, steep increases in security costs to avoid terrorist attacks, and a much-needed overhaul of the agency's facilities. After years of trying to control costs, the Port Authority said lack of action on toll prices "risks 240 critical infrastructure projects and thousands of jobs."
Should the federal government weigh in on tolling costs? What standards should determine the cost of tolls? How much sway should the feds have on toll prices? Would increased federal oversight on tolling hurt the development of public-private partnerships? How do higher tolls impact commuters' use of transit?