Governors Chris Christie of New Jersey and Andrew Cuomo of New York sent a joint letter to Port Authority Chairman David Samson and Vice Chairman Stanley Grayson today directing that the toll and fare increases the authority proposed two weeks ago be scaled back and that a comprehensive audit of the capital plan and operations take place.
A copy of the governors’ letter can be found here.
Christie and Cuomo said that their commissioners were able to identify $5 billion in savings within the capital plan over the last two weeks.
Imagine what they could have found if they weren’t in a hurry.
Tolls for cars on the Hudson River crossings will increase by $1.50 in September and then $.75 in December in each year from 2012-2015. The Port Authority’s proposal would have raised these tolls by $4.00 in September. Overall tolls on cars will increase by $4.50 over the next five years rather than the $6.00 PANYNJ proposed over four years.
Drivers paying cash rather than using EZ Pass will pay a $2.00 penalty.
Tolls on trucks using EZ Pass will increase by $2.00 per axle in September, and then an additional $2.00 per year per axle starting in December, 2012-2015.
Trucks paying cash will pay the same increases, plus $3.00 per axle.
Fares on the PATH trains will increase $.25 per year for the next four years.
The governors said that these increases would stop the fiscal crisis at Port Authority and allow for the completion of the World Trade Center and hundreds of other projects that “will ensure the safety and economic viability of a transportation system that millions of New Yorkers and New Jerseyans rely on.”
This toll deal, since the Port Authority’s initial announcement through today’s joint letter by the governors is just too cute for my liking.
Why institute five years worth of toll increases before the comprehensive audit is completed? What happens if the audit reveals another $5 billion in savings? Will tolls be reduced by another $2.50 like the governors were able to reduce the proposed increases with $5 billion in savings discovered in two weeks? Who will conduct the audit? Is prevailing wage on the table for reform? Will the audit be made public? How long will the audit take to complete?
If there is a real fiscal crisis at PANYNJ with a possibility of defaulting on bonds, a more reasonable alternative would have been to grant temporary toll and fare increases, for six months to a year, until the audit could be completed, studied and money saving reforms implemented.
The fact that this fiasco happened during two weeks in August while so many people are vacationing before the back to school rush increases my cynicism and disappointment. It makes me fear what might be in store for us during the last two weeks of December and during the lame duck session of the legislature.