Staten Island drivers gets Verrazano-Narrows Bridge toll relief
Staten Island residents traveling across the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge will pay less in tolls under a plan announced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday.
Under the new pricing scheme, Staten Island drives with an EZ pass will pay $5.50 per trip, a drop from the already discounted $6 that many EZ pass users currently pay. Commercial drivers would also benefit from the plan — trucks using the bridge more than 10 times a month would see about a 20 percent cut in tolls.
An estimated 183,000 vehicles drive over the Verrazano bridge every day.
“The Verrazano is not just another bridge,” Cuomo said at the announcement. “It is the main artery to Staten Island … and when you toll that bridge, you toll the main artery and that main connection.”
The proposal today comes after months of bipartisan negotiations between Cuomo and the legislature. However, it still needs to be reviewed and approved by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which operates the bridge.
If approved, the plan would go into effect by April 1 at the earliest.
The relief would come at a cost of about $14 million to taxpayers and straphangers. Half of the money would come from Cuomo’s proposed budge, with the other $7 million paid for by the MTA.
Elected leaders from across the borough joined Cuomo in southern Staten Island to hail announcement.
“This is a tremendous victory for the people of Staten Island,” said state Sen. Michael Lanza, adding that the plan took as long as it did because of its complexity.
Across the bridge, some are less enthusiastic about Cuomo’s proposal. Brooklyn Councilman Vincent Gentile called the plan a “take of two boroughs” that forgets about the commuters on the other side of the Verrazano.
“These residents in the zip-codes surrounding the Verrazano have to pay considerably more than their Staten Island neighbors every time they use this bridge,” Gentile said in a statement. “At $15 a pop, this is completely unjustifiable not to mention a serious burden on the wallet.”
The cut doesn’t sit well with transit advocates either, particularly if it’s partially paid for by the MTA.
“Any drop in toll revenue is going to weaken the MTA’s finances,” wrote Streetsblog editor Ben Fried in response to the plan. “So, while Verrazano car commuters get reduced tolls this election year, transit riders still have nothing but scheduled fare hikes to look forward to.”
Follow Chester Jesus Soria on Twitter @chestersoria