Queens residents got a bit of good news when the MTA and several local lawmakers announced that all drivers in the “World’s Borough” would receive a rebate to travel the Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge beginning in 2020.
That’s great news indeed. But drivers still have to pay out the toll at first, then get refunded later. It’s an exercise in absurdity.
Why do we need a toll on the Cross Bay Bridge at all?
Currently, only drivers who live in the Rockaways or Broad Channel — the two communities which are directly connected by this span — are eligible for a substantial discount on the two-way toll.
That the MTA continues to think that anyone should pay to go from one part of Queens to another is utter nonsense.
The Cross Bay Bridge isn’t a cash cow for the authority; the tolls are about half of what they charge for other crossings within the MTA system. Subsequently, the revenue it generates — about $19 million a year, according to recent reports — is a drop in the MTA’s bucket, and could easily be replaced through internal cost savings and additional funds from the city and state.
Moreover, the Cross Bay Bridge is not exactly a grandiose, high-maintenance span that requires consistent upkeep that would warrant toll revenue. It’s a glorified, utilitarian overpass spanning Jamaica Bay.
Meanwhile, the state is pouring billions of dollars into building two beautiful, cable-stayed spans to replace the Kosciuszko Bridge between Brooklyn and Queens — and even that isn’t being tolled! (By the way, the Kosciuszko Bridge should never be tolled — the traffic on it is taxing enough for drivers.)
The toll on the Cross Bay Bridge, as lawmakers like state Senator Joe Addabbo have rightly pointed out through the years, has served only as a barrier toward economic development on the Rockaway Peninsula. The additional costs resulting from the bridge tolls serve as a disincentive toward growing businesses and jobs.
Bridges are built to overcome divisions, and yet the Cross Bay Bridge toll’s most powerful impact is to keep Queens and the Rockaways virtually divided. Queens and the Rockaways are one borough. Let’s finally make that an economic reality recognized for everyone.
We urge the MTA to eliminate the Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge toll once and for all. Tear down the toll barriers and make it free for everyone!