Kate Hinds is an Associate Producer for WNYC News. She also reports for WNYC and Transportation Nation, a public radio reporting project that combines the work of multiple newsrooms to provide coverage of how we build, rebuild and get around the nation.
Judge to Decide on Challenge to Port Authority Toll Increase
Thursday, December 08, 2011 - 12:16 PM
A judge said he would soon issue a written opinion after hearing arguments from AAA on Thursday claiming that the Port Authority is turning a profit from its bridges and tunnels and has no need – or legal authority – to raise tolls.
Judge Richard Holwell gave no time frame for the decision. The local chapters of the AAA have brought suit against the agency in an effort to reverse the toll hike in September.
In a court proceeding in federal court in Manhattan on Thursday, AAA argued that the Port Authority should be using more of the money it gets from motorists to help fund for roadway projects.
AAA attorney Mike Fitzgerald faulted the Authority for presenting a $25 billion, 10-year capital plan as the need behind the toll hikes, when by the agency’s own reckoning, Interstate Transportation Network’s capital plan was $10 billion.
The INT consists of its tolled bridges and tunnels as well as PATH train and the Port Authority Bus Terminal.
Fitzgerald also talked about the need to cover mounting losses from the World Trade Center reconstruction as being the Port Authority’s real reason for raising tolls.
The Port Authority argued AAA has no standing to bring the lawsuit under legal statute. The judge asked if the Attorney General of the United States had standing, to which Port Authority attorney Carlene McIntyre said “it depends.”
AAA wants the judge to not only order the tolls to be rolled back also to pre-September rates.
The Port Authority's board is scheduled to vote on the 2012 budget Thursday afternoon. It sets aside $3.9 billion for capital improvements, but most of that money goes to the World Trade Center.