New push to restore Verrazzano Bridge two-way toll

BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | “For whom the bridge tolls” has been a thorny issue for the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge for decades, following its change to one-way tolling back in the 1980s.

The result was that only drivers heading to Staten Island had to pay a toll and that congestion at toll plazas on the island was cut. But the Metropolitan Transportation Authority lost millions of dollars in annual revenue and congestion was increased in Downtown Manhattan and Brooklyn.

But that could all change soon, as congressional Democrats are now, at last, pushing new legislation to restore a two-way toll on the Verrazzano.

The Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge one-way toll is the only toll in the entire country that is federally mandated.

Congressmembers Max Rose, Jerrold Nadler and Nydia Velazquez, joined by other local politicians, held a press conference on Staten Island early on the morning of Sun., April 28, with Patrick Foye, the M.T.A. chairperson, to announce federal legislation to reinstate two-way tolling on the Verrazzano, plus increase transportation investments for Staten Island and South Brooklyn.

The proposal is to split the current $19 one-way toll to Staten Island into a $9.50 toll going in each direction. Existing discounts for Staten Islanders would continue to apply.

In addition, it’s projected a balanced two-way toll would also bring in an additional $10 million to $15 million per year for the M.T.A. from drivers who would otherwise be so-called “toll evaders” — meaning drivers who try to avoid tolls by taking alternate routes to circumvent them.

The current one-way toll on the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge is the only toll in the United States that is federally mandated. As a result, an act of Congress is required to change it.

A source said the legislation has “a broad base of support from all stakeholders.”

Staten Island Congressmember Max Rose led the press conference announcing a federal effort to restore the Verrazzano Bridge’s two-way toll. Other politicians joining him included, clockwise from bottom left, Councilmember Margaret Chin, state Senator Brian Kavanagh and Conressmembers Nydia Velazaquez and Jerrold Nadler. (Courtesy Max Rose’s office)

Rose last week wrote an op-ed in the Staten Island Advance saying that a two-way Verrazzano toll would both increase revenue for the M.T.A. — that could be used on projects in Brooklyn and Staten Island — as well as cut traffic congestion.

The one-way Verrazzano toll has been the scourge of Downtown Manhattan, which has been hammered with excessive traffic because of it. A report released last year that was commissioned by the Hudson Square Connection Business Improvement District revealed what Downtowners have long known: A two-way toll on the Verrazzano would drastically slash traffic congestion in Lower Manhattan.

Sam Schwartz Engineering’s report, headed by the transit expert revealed that up to 137 vehicles per hour could be removed from westbound Canal, Watts and Houston streets with a two-way bridge toll.

These corridors are where vehicles head westbound toward the Holland Tunnel. With Staten Island-bound traffic on the Verrazzano being tolled — but not Manhattan-bound traffic — Schwartz estimated that 70 percent of westbound trips to New Jersey take the route through Manhattan instead of the I-278 route through Staten Island.

“Staten Island and South Brooklyn have been used as a cheap thoroughfare for far too long,” Rose said at the press conference. “The status quo is not working for Staten Islanders and South Brooklynites who are living through nightmare commutes every single day. This plan to bring split tolling to the Verrazzano will help by dramatically decreasing commuter traffic in Staten Island and Brooklyn, while also reinvesting future revenue into the buses and public transit options that Staten Island and South Brooklyn deserve.”

“The M.T.A. applauds Representatives Rose, Nadler and Velázquez’s efforts to improve transportation options and reduce congestion on Staten Island, restoring two-way tolling to the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge,”Foye said. “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 M.T.A. capital plan, including much-needed investments in Staten Island and Southern Brooklyn.”

“After more than two decades working on this issue, I am extremely proud to stand here today with my colleagues in Congress, Rep. Nydia Velázquez and Rep. Max Rose as we announce federal legislation to finally restore two-way tolling on the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge,” Nadler said. “The restoration of toll collection in both directions, using electronic tolling that does not require stops at a toll plaza, will greatly improve traffic and congestion in Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan, while also capturing new vital funding for the M.T.A. from out-of-state trucks, who no longer will avoid a toll entering New York City via Staten Island in order to escape the charges on the Hudson River bridge and tunnel crossings. All New Yorkers, will reap the benefits of the restoration of two-way toll collection, from new additional revenue for the M.T.A. and fewer trucks on the Staten Island Expressway, Gowanus Expressway, Manhattan Bridge and Canal and Broome Sts. in Lower Manhattan.”

“For far too long, the one-way tolling system on the Verrazzano bridge has resulted in excessive commercial traffic making its way across Staten Island and then through Brooklyn neighborhoods as trucks seek to avoid local tolls,” Velázquez said. “The solution being announced today will mean less congestion, safer streets and better air quality in our communities. It will reduce wear and tear on Brooklyn, Manhattan and Staten Island infrastructure like the B.Q.E., Gowanus Expressway, Manhattan Bridge and Canal St. I look forward to working with all my colleagues as we push through the appropriations process the necessary federal legislation to enable split tolling.”

“The one-way double toll on the Verrazzano Bridge has diverted cars and trucks up the B.Q.E. and across the congested streets of Lower Manhattan for far too long,” state Senator Brian Kavanagh said. “We’ve always understood that it will take federal and state cooperation to change this, so it’s very gratifying that Congressmembers Nadler, Rose and Velázquez and the M.T.A. are committing to this plan to authorize and implement two-way tolling. Fewer cars and trucks circumventing the existing toll will mean less traffic congestion, better air quality and more revenue for public transportation. It’s particularly critical at this moment, as we work to minimize the impact of the B.Q.E. reconstruction project that looms large over communities I represent in Brooklyn.”

Correction: At one point in the original version of this article, it incorrectly stated that drivers were only tolled when going toward Staten Island after the bridge’s toll was made one-way. In fact, they were only tolled when going toward Brooklyn.

10 Responses to New push to restore Verrazzano Bridge two-way toll

  1. Max Rose has only been in office for a few months, and has only lived on S.I. for two years and yet he is now an expert on S.I. transportation issues. He may be right about the 2-way toll because electronic tolling has eliminated the need to slow down and pay tolls which was the issue back in 1986 when he 1-way toll was instituted. But what this is really about his Rose bending over for Jerrold Nadler at the expense of his S.I. constituents. BTW all those trucks that Nadler was whining about are making deliveries to Manhattan or picking up products in Manhattan for delivery elsewhere.

  2. That's fine, as long as the cost of the toll is only what's needed to cover the cost of maintaining the bridge

    • That doesn't happen. They divert the funds to other projects……..

      • That's explicitly by design. The MTA uses the profits from the bridge tolls to try and plug the deficit that mass transit runs. This is fundamentally unfair to drivers who use the bridges and tunnels. The tolls should be reduced to what it actually costs to runt the bridges and tunnels, and the transit fare should be raised to cover 100% of the costs of the transit systems.

  3. In June 2016, St. Francis College student Robert Nash started a petition to correctly spell Giovanni da Verrazzano's name on the bridge with two "z"s. The petition gained support from politicians including New York State Senators Martin Golden and Andrew Lanza. The petition was also supported by actors and celebrities of Italian heritage, including Robert DeNiro and Tony Gemignani.

    In December 2016, Senators Golden and Lanza sent letters to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority CEO Thomas F. Prendergast, in which they recommended that the bridge's name be spelled correctly. An MTA spokesperson said the agency was reviewing the letter.

    On October 1, 2018, Governor Cuomo signed a bill into law, changing the legal spelling of the bridge to the "Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge

  4. Dunderheads! Then the people will go through the city BOTH ways which is STILL cheaper than the Verrazano. This will cause MORE congestion in Manhattan.

  5. This is about money into their coffers, it has nothing to do with congestion. They got away with a 2 dollar increase without anyone protesting it, now they figure let’s pass the two way toll and push it through. This is what happens when you get suckered at the polls and vote for a Dem, just like that everyone in Staten Island is paying more and more. They really want to reduce congestion then no city employees should be driving into the city, they should be using public transportation. If you look at downtown Manhattan and Brooklyn, all you see are vehicles with placards plastered all over and parked on the sidewalks, underpasses, etc. Why are vehicles parked on sidewalks, underpasses and even on grass areas downtown Brooklyn. So everyone are paying for the damages these vehicles cause to the sidewalks, we are paying for them driving and causing congestion.

  6. Here’s a thought, remove all tolls period. Yeah, right!!!!!

  7. One-way toll was basically due to auto fume congestion at toll booths–these booths are long gone! Thousands of truck companies' play' the one-way toll and save millions of dollars each year. The result: Gowanus gets pounded by thousands of these trucks, same with Brooklyn Heights where the overhead Promenade is ready to collapse and of course the lower-Manhattan traffic nightmares. Face it folks, this was a favor of a Republican hierarchy which was led by late Guy Molinari in league with Sen. Al D'Amato. Brooklyn Eagle's Mary Frost knows this:Two-way toll could 'save' Heights Promenade so expect Promenade's very influential backers to jump hard on the two-way idea.

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