Whopping new tolls take effect on New Jersey-New York roadways
How's this for a deal -- $12 for a ticket to New York City! But there's a catch: the fare is for drivers entering Gotham via bridges and tunnels from New Jersey, and it's the wallet-busting toll that replaced the $8 fare over the weekend despite a last-ditch attempt by the Automobile Association of America (AAA) to block it.
The new toll affects two tunnels and four bridges: Holland Tunnel, Lincoln Tunnel, George Washington Bridge, Goethals Bridge, Bayonne Bridge and Outerbridge Crossing.
There are ways to lessen the sticker shock -- E-ZPass holders pay less, for instance, though their costs also shot upward -- but some Jersey motorists seem to object more to one of the reasons for the hike: to raise money to rebuild the World Trade Center site. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey manages the bridges and tunnels, and it owns the land on which Manhattan office complex destroyed in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks sits.
Port Authority officials, who proposed the toll hike in August, said the money also will help pay for maintenance of tunnels, bridges and other transportation infrastructure. The agency, which also runs four major airports in the region, said more money also is needed to help cover security costs that have risen as a result of the 2001 attacks.
Last week, AAA wrote to the U.S. Department of Transportation urging it to step in and block the increase and accusing the Port Authority of misusing funds that AAA says are supposed to be spent only on transportation.
"In this case, it's going into a speculative office development," the vice president of legal affairs for AAA, Marta Genovese, said at a news briefing.
The organization's spokesman, Robert Sinclair, described the toll hike as "an eggregious example of the motorists getting ripped off."
The organization has threatened to sue to force a rollback of the increases, which took effect at 3 a.m. (EST) Sunday to grumbling but no major disruptions.
But there's plenty of time for protests. This toll hike is just the beginning of a series of increases that eventually will cost motorists as much as $15 each time they drive into the city from New Jersey.
The Star-Ledger newspaper of New Jersey did some quick math and calculated that when the final tolls are in effect in 2015, commuters paying cash will spend $3,525 per year just on bridge or tunnel tolls.
On the plus side: you don't have to pay to go back to New Jersey.
-- Tina Susman in New York
PHOTO: The George Washington Bridge. CREDIT: Spencer Platt / Getty Images