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Marshall lashes MTA over Cross Bay toll

“Let me be clear about this - I am vehemently opposed to the proposed elimination of the residential rebate program for residents of the Rockaways and Broad Channel.”
So began Borough President Helen Marshall’s testimony before the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) during its second public hearing on Tuesday, January 20 at the Sheraton LaGuardia East Hotel in Flushing.
The cash-strapped agency is proposing that residents of the Rockaway Peninsula and Broad Channel, who are currently reimbursed $1.03 each time they cross the bridge using E-Z Pass, would no longer be entitled to the Cross Bay Bridge rebate they have received for 10 years.
“This is an ill-conceived and disastrous plan that would have a devastating affect on the community,” said Assemblymember Audrey Pheffer. “Charging residents to go from one part of Queens to another is the same as placing a toll in the middle of Queens Blvd. It is unfair, unjust and I believe possibly illegal. The bridge should be free for all residents of Queens.”
Aside from this, the MTA, which is facing a $1.2 billion budget deficit, is calling for a 23 percent increase in subway and bus fares as well as the elimination of numerous weekend bus lines in order to balance their budget, which has taken a hit from plummeting tax revenues, higher fuel costs and increased debt service obligations.
“Once again, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is expecting hard working commuters to bail them out of their financial disrepair,” said Community Board 6 District Manager Frank Gulluscio. “I am deeply troubled at the prospect of a fare hike and even more so at the proposed elimination of the resident rebate for the Cross Bay Bridge.
He continued, “The Cross Bay Bridge is unique in that it is the only tolled bridge in the city that connects two communities within the same zip code. Just over ten years ago, we joined together as a concerned community to fight for our rights and we were successful. It is time once again to let our voices be heard and remind those leaders of the MTA that they are not going to balance their budget on the backs of Queens residents. Local families rely heavily on the bridge to commute to work, transport their children to and from school, shop for groceries, attend religious services, utilize their police precinct and visit their doctor.”
However, a spokesperson for the MTA, Kevin Ortiz, told The Courier that if the Ravitch Commission recommendations were to be implemented, “We won’t see a 20 percent increase in fares and tolls, but a more moderate eight percent and no reversal of the rebate.”
Among other things, the Ravitch recommendations include tolls on the Harlem and East River bridges.
“We are waiting on the state Legislature to act on the Ravitch recommendations,” said Ortiz, who is urging residents to reach out to their local politicians.
“They need to reach out to local elected officials and make their opinions and voices heard,” he said.
According to Ortiz, the MTA will begin implementing service cuts in early spring and fare and toll increases in June, if the recommendations are not executed.

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