A federal decision in 1986 that effectively eliminated two-way tolling across the Verrazano Narrows Bridge may be reversed if Rep. Jerrold Nadler has his way. As the Downtown Express reports this week, Nadler is trying to get legislation passed that would restore two-way tolling across the Verrazano, and a recent technological innovation by the MTA might just make this plan a reality.
Early next year, the MTA will implement cashless tolling on the Henry Hudson Bridge across the Spuyten Duyvil. Using high-speed E-ZPass readers and license plate capture technology, the authority will eliminate all toll gates in a move officials hope will speed up traffic and reduce congestion at the river crossing between the Bronx and Manhattan. If successful — and considering the nationwide use of this technology, there’s no reason to think it wouldn’t be — the authority could move quickly to install it on its tolled bridges and tunnels.
Enter Nadler. He wants to use this high-speed, gateless tolling to restore sanity to the New York City traffic scheme. Under his plan, no longer would trucks be able to enter Manhattan for free via Staten Island and leave, for free, via the Holland Tunnel. No longer with unnecessary commercial traffic choke the highways of Brooklyn or the streets of Manhattan.
“The restoration of toll collection in both directions, using electronic tolling innovations that won’t require stops at a toll plaza, would greatly improve traffic and congestion in Brooklyn and Manhattan,” Nadler said. “The two-way toll would eliminate the flow of trucks entering New York City via Staten Island in order to escape the charges on the Hudson River Bridge and tunnel crossings. With the MTA now poised to test new toll-collection technologies, which are likely to be implemented across the region, all New Yorkers will reap the benefits and the MTA will generate new revenue that it sorely needs.”
As Streetsblog recently detailed, federal legislation eliminated two-way tolling in 1986, and Staten Island and its representatives have fought hard to keep it that way even though the rest of the city has to suffer. Nadler, who has called for two-way tolls since his early days in Congress in 1992, proposes to halve the one-way toll and enforce the smaller fee in both directions so frequent drivers on the Verrazano Bridge wouldn’t be paying more than they do today. Even as the tollbooths are torn down, this plan is a no-brainer for the sake of congestion, toll revenue and the rest of New York City.