Photo courtesy of New York State Assembly
(Left to right) Sam Schwartz of Sam Schwartz Engineering, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Executive Director Pat Foye, Nicole Gelinas of the Manhattan Institute, Assemblyman David Weprin, and panel moderator Errol Lewis

Don’t even think about it!

That was the message Assemblyman David Weprin presented on Wednesday regarding a proposal to install tolls on the free East River crossings such as the Ed Koch-Queensboro, Williamsburg, Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges.

Weprin made his remarks during a panel discussion at the World Trade Center titled “Getting from Here to There: Unclogging New York’s Transportation,” by the Manhattan Institute.

Weprin asked the panel’s attendees to consider the middle- and working-class people as well as small businesses in the outer boroughs that relied on the toll-free bridges in making daily trips to and from the city, sometimes more than one round trip.

When the tolls keep going up and up, it gets to a point where it’s not affordable to the middle class,” Weprin brought before the panel.

The proposal, drafted by then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2008, suggests a congestion pricing zone encompassing an area spanning all of Manhattan below 60th Street with a few exempted roadways. A fee of $8 for cars and commercial vehicles and $21 for trucks entering into the zone is suggested to be applied between the hours of 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. during weekdays with an exemption extending to buses, emergency vehicles, taxis and other for-hire vehicles, and cars with handicapped license plates. 

Though the original deadline to approve the plan was in early 2008, voting on the proposal was stalled initially by the overwhelming opposition to it at the state level. A spike in gas prices amid the Great Recession also spurred opposition to congestion pricing.

Now, amid declining fuel prices and stagnating infrastructure, tolls on the East River bridges are once again under consideration through the Move NY plan, a proposal designed to reduce tolls on MTA-controlled crossings such as the Robert F. Kennedy, Throgs Neck and Whitestone bridges while redirecting toll revenue toward infrastructure improvements.

However, Weprin insisted that the funds for such projects can be raised without levying more tolls.

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Steven Katz April 28, 2016 / 04:43PM
The only thing tolls on the East River bridges will do is create more air pollution by slowing down traffic. Any automotive engineer will tell you that engines run cleaner at higher speeds. If you want better traffic flow, work on moving the existing traffic. THAT is the area which needs to be addresses. NY City motorists are already overtaxed by the city and state. The NY City auto use tax was instituted as a TEMPORARY measure to save the city from bankruptcy in the mid 70's. We were duped. My research through a local elected official shows that there's no sunset clause in the law. Additionally, (s)he could not even find a corresponding line item in the city or state budget. Where does that money go? Where is the financial transparency?
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