Summertime in New York City is known as “highway robbery time” for anyone who chooses to take a car trip outside the borough.
Before they can get to their destination, they will have to pass through myriad toll crossings controlled by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) or the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey—and pay huge fees for the privilege of moving their vehicle across a body of water.
Let’s say a family from Queens wants to get away to the Jersey shore for a day. They hop into their minivan or SUV and venture onto the Grand Central Parkway. After fighting bumper-to-bumper traffic, they eventually reach the Robert F. Kennedy (Triborough) Bridge.
After crossing this grand span, they stop at the toll booth to pay the MTA $6.50, more than twice the amount charged to one person who boards an MTA subway train or bus.
The family then heads into the Bronx, up the Major Deegan Expressway and eventually to the George Washington Bridge. They won’t pay to go into New Jersey, but on their way out, they’ll have to cough up $12 to the Port Authority at the Fort Lee toll plaza.
If the family decided to head south instead, they would hop on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway or the Belt Parkway, experience even more traffic and then cross the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. Upon reaching the toll booth in Staten Island, the driver will be charged a whopping $13 for that three minute ride across the great span.
After making their way through the parking lot known as the Staten Island Expressway, the family eventually crosses the dilapidated and obsolete Goethals Bridge, another span controlled by the Port Authority. Again, there’s no charge heading westbound, but on their return trip, the family will have to pay $12 for the privilege of driving across this monument to infrastructure negligence.
Whether they cross the George Washington Bridge or the Goethals Bridge, the family will ultimately wind up on either the New Jersey Turnpike or Garden State Parkway—and be subjected to even more tolls.
Add to this the price of gasoline—which, though lower of late, is still way too high—and the cost of a simple day trip out of hustle and bustle New York City soars to the point where taking a trip isn’t worth it to many people.
It’s bad enough that the cost of getting around is sucking the money out of working people’s pockets, but one has to wonder what the MTA and the Port Authority is doing with all the toll money they’re collecting.
The bridges and tunnels they control were built with municipal bonds and were supposed to be paid off with the tolls collected. It has been nearly 50 years since the last major crossing was constructed by either authority, and yet the tolls remain and seem to grow higher with every passing year.
The authorities may claim that the tolls are used to maintain these bridges and tunnels, but anyone who drives across them knows that, for the price being paid, the crossings could be in much better shape.
No one seems to be questioning the MTA or the Port Authority about where all that toll money is going, and it’s time someone stepped up and did so. It’s worth the trip.
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