Public Weighs in at Port Authority Hearings on Proposed Toll Hikes

Opinions have been mixed during public hearings held by the Port Authority throughout the area on the proposed fare hikes that could cost drivers $15 round trip to cross bridges and tunnels and $1 more to ride the PATH. 

At a hearing at the Port Authority Bus Terminal on 42nd Street Tuesday morning, about 100 drivers PATH Train riders and construction workers passionately panned and praised the possible increases.

"What I don't understand is how every morning as I drive down to pay my $8, my fillings are getting rattled out and the shocks to my car are getting beat to hell," said Jason Ertrell, a lawyer who drives from Clifton, New Jersey, over the George Washington Bridge to Midtown Manhattan daily.

But trade unionists, which stand to benefit if more money goes towards the agency's capital projects, approved of increasing revenues through hikes.

"The rebuilding of the World Trade Center is currently a priority and must remain so," said Ramon Woodcock, a laborer. "It is a matter of American pride."

Governors Andrew Cuomo and Chris Christie both ripped into the proposed hikes, although it is unclear whether they knew about them before they were made public. Neither governor is ruling out the toll hikes altogether.

"Our members are contacting us and telling us it’s very unfair, it's outrageous, it's a burden that‘s going to be tough to bear during a difficult economy," said Rob Sinclair, spokesman for the Automobile Association of America.

But labor unions and business and trade organizations say the hikes are needed to keep the port and airports running, bridges and tunnels standing and progress moving on a rebuilt World Trade Center.

The Port Authority said the increases are necessary because it's been hit with a triple-whammy: a recession that has caused lower volumes of toll-paying traffic on its crossings, costing it $2.6 billion; post-9/11 security costs that have especially driven up the budget of the World Trade Center rebuilding; and "the need for the largest overhaul of facilities in the agency’s 90-year history."

(Go here for the authority's full justification of the hikes.)

On Tuesday, the authority will host hearings in New York and New Jersey. The authority's Board of Commissioners is set to vote on them Friday:

Newark Liberty International Airport
1 Conrad Road
Building 157, Bay 3
Newark, NJ 07114
8 a.m.

Port Authority Technical Center
241 Erie Street, Room 212
Jersey City, NJ 07310
8 a.m.

Port Ivory/Howland Hook
40 Western Ave.
Staten Island, NY 10303
8 a.m.

Port Authority Bus Terminal
625 8th Avenue
Times Square Conference Room – 2nd Floor
New York, NY 10018
8 a.m.

George Washington Bridge Administration Building
220 Bruce Reynolds Way
Conference Room
Fort Lee, NJ 07024
6 p.m.

Holland Tunnel Administration Building,
13th Street & Provost Street
Conference Room
Jersey City, NJ 07310
6 p.m.

George Washington Bridge Bus Station
4211 Broadway
Lower Level Conference Room
New York, NY 10033
6 p.m.

John F. Kennedy International Airport
Port Authority Administration
Building 14, 2nd Floor Conference Room
Jamaica, NY 11430
6 p.m.