Efforts to forever eliminate the toll on the Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge in Queens moved a step closer toward becoming a reality on Thursday.
The State Assembly passed legislation that would ban the toll on the bridge linking Broad Channel and the Rockaways for good. Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato, who represents the area where the bridge is located, sponsored the legislation, which now moves on to the state Senate.
Operated by MTA Bridges and Tunnels, the Cross Bay Bridge is the only crossing in New York City in which drivers must pay a toll to travel from one part of the same borough to another. Even though Broad Channel and Rockaway residents are eligible for discounted tolls through EZPass, for years, local residents and community leaders have said the toll serves no meaningful purpose for the area.
“I made a pledge before taking office that I would work to eliminate the Cross Bay Memorial Bridge toll,” Amato said in a June 14 statement. “Today, I had a thrilling win and a great step forward for our community. As I have stated countless times: The toll has outlived its original stated purpose of paying for the bridge, and has absolutely no stated current purpose other than supplementing the MTA’s budget on the backs of hard-working New Yorkers.”
Assemblyman Mike Miller, whose district is based in nearby Woodhaven, co-sponsored Amato’s legislation and was equally pleased to see it clear one legislative hurdle.
“Our community is now one step closer to enjoying their beaches without worrying about the costly price commuting to and from the Rockaways,” Miller said. “This is a big win for South Queens and I hope the Senate can make the right decision just in time for the beach season.”
The Senate version of the bill is sponsored by state Senator Joe Addabbo, whose district includes Broad Channel and the Rockaways. Addabbo told QNS on Friday that the Assembly’s approval of the bill gives him hope that the Senate will take it up with just three working days remaining in the legislative session. The state Legislature only meets from January until the end of June every year.
Addabbo said he would speak with Senate leaders on Monday and learn if there’s a chance the bill could get a floor vote before the session ends.
“This is the most unfair toll, I would argue, in the entire state,” Addabbo said on June 15. “Knowing the MTA’s fiscal responsibilities and obligations and their status, I know that you don’t balance the MTA budget, which is billions of dollars, on the couple of million it gets from the Cross Bay Bridge toll.”
Addabbo hopes lifting the toll for good would be a boon to the Rockaways. He claimed that numerous businesspeople on the peninsula believe that the toll has hindered economic development over the years.
“This is the gateway to Rockaway,” he added. “If we do take away the toll, I’m going to assume that the economic impact would benefit the state. More people might come here. There may be an economic uptick from the elimination of the toll.”
Should the state Senate pass the bill before the legislative session ends, it will then be up to Governor Andrew Cuomo as to whether the bill becomes law. QNS reached out to the governor’s office for comment, and is awaiting a response.