2010-03-26 / Front Page

MTA Passes CBB Toll ‘Compromise’

By Nicholas Briano
The Metropolitan Transportation Author ity (MTA) Finance Committee voted to approve a set of modifications this week to the MTA budget cuts, which includes charging Rockaway residents for just the first two tolls across the bridge each day.

The guideline has been revised from the original proposal, which was to do away with the resident rebate program entirely, a program now in place that grants free rides over the Cross Bay Bridge for Rockaway and Broad Channel residents.

Even though this is not what protesters were fighting for, it reduces some of the impact of the toll presented by residents as unjust at the public hearing earlier this month. Many of those who cross the bridge multiple times a day pleaded that they would not be able to afford the toll every time they had civic and personal duties to conduct on the other side of the bridge.

The change still needs to be voted on by the MTA board next week and the changes approved will go into effect this July, with residents being charged $1.13 each way with an E-Z Pass. Assembly woman Audrey Pheffer has long lobbied for the toll to be eliminated for everyone, not just Rockaway and Broad Channel residents.

“I am disappointed to learn that the MTA has not completely restored the Rockaway and Broad Channel Resident Rebate Program,” Pheffer said. “While the MTA has taken some actions to address the many residents who utilize the bridge for multiple trips a day, this action is not enough. I maintain that the bridge toll is an illegal tax that the residents of my community are faced with daily.”

“We should not be burdened with a toll to cross from one side of Queens to the other. I will continue to fight for the elimination of this unfair toll and the reinstatement of the Resident Rebate Program for ALL trips over the bridge. The elimination of the toll is my ultimate goal so that all who travel on the bridge can do so free of charge,” she added.

According to the MTA, the current cost of the resident rebate program is approximately $4.1 million per year and it is estimated that the revisions to the program would cut the program’s cost to roughly $600,000 per year, for an annualized savings of $3.5 million in funds available to the MTA for other transit uses.

The MTA says on their website that the revised program will still limit the impact of tolls on the Cross Bay Bridge for those residents of the Rockaways and Broad Channel Island who must make frequent intra-borough trips across the bridge to access community facilities.

Democratic District Leader Lew M. Simon also believes the intra-borough toll is unconstitutional.

“I was extremely disappointed with the decision. It is unacceptable that residents have to travel one round trip in order to go back and forth for free,” Simon said. “I am so tired of hearing about the MTA’s money problems. They should lay off some of the hot shots in the managerial ranks. I urge everyone to call state elected officials to put money in the budget for this because we must fight on.”

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