The Verrazano Bridge opened in 1964 as an engineering marvel, holding the record of world’s longest suspension bridge for nearly two decades. However, in 1986 concerns about pollution from idling vehicles at Staten Island tollbooths brought bridge controversy to the congressional level and resulted in a one-way, west-bound-only toll. The Cobble Hill Association strongly believes the single direction toll negatively impacts NYC both in lost toll revenues and increased congestion on the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, and actively supports any plans to re-instate two-way toll collection on the Verrazano Bridge.
Calls to change the tolling strategy have come from countless politicians and civic groups in many neighborhoods. The one-way tolls encourage vehicles, especially trucks from New Jersey, “to drive into Staten Island, cross east on the Verrazano for free, drive up the BQE or Brooklyn local roads to the free Manhattan Bridge, then cross Lower Manhattan and head back to New Jersey for free through the Port Authority’ s tunnels, which impose no tolls heading westbound.” 1 While some trips are unquestionably necessary, this free route allows excessive congestion to already overburdened roadways, additional damage to our streets, and puts more and more pedestrians and cyclists throughout the city in harm’ s way.
the Downtown Brooklyn Project to repair/replace the triple cantilever section of the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, is in its nascent stages but holds a large percentage of traffic coming from the Verrazano Bridge. As active participants in project’s Stakeholder Advisory Committee, officers Roy Sloane and Dave ‘Paco’ Abraham have suggested re-instating the two-way toll is a logical solution to include in the traffic demand management strategies; very simply, it would discourage free through trips on the BQE portion slated for construction.
Additionally, technological advancements now allow for high-speed toll collections, such that re-instating the two-way toll would not cause any pollution from engine idling. Certain exits of the New Jersey Turnpike, Garden State Parkway, and other highways on the East Coast allow payment without drivers reducing speeds in the slightest. The MTA, owner of the Verrazano Bridge, has been studying such systems and in 2011 will begin a two-phase makeover of its Henry Hudson Bridge. In 2011, tollgate arms will be removed, and more cash lanes will convert to EZ lanes. Then in 2012, all gates will be removed and overhead camera equipment will allow for high-speed fare collections.
President Obama has called for a re-authorization of the year-overdue Federal Transportation Bill, and NY congressman Jerold Nadler is taking the opportunity to address the Verrazano issue. As the one-way toll had been enacted from language worked into the bill two decades ago, Nadler is now working with the Transportation Committee to find solutions.
The Cobble Hill Association supports Congressman Nadler’ s efforts 100%. Our neighborhood will benefit from cleaner air and less congestion, as will all the sections of the city plagued by traffic induced by the free passage to Manhattan. Once that blunder in bridge tolling is corrected, we hope to see fresh eyes look at the Lifeway concept that would add a much-needed pedestrian/bicycle crossing on the Verrazano, finally uniting more than just the drivers of Brooklyn and Staten Island.
For more info on the Verrazano and the well-acknowledged need for re-instating the two-
way toll system, please read the following.
Civic Organizations urging to re-instate the two-way toll include
- Cobble Hill Association
- Boerum Hill Traffic Task Force
Politicians who once have, or still are, urging to re-instate the two-way toll include
- Congressman Jerry Nadler
- Senator Chuck Schumer* (has possibly backed away from the support he gave when in Congress)
- Assemblywoman Joan Millman
- City Councilman (33rd district) Steven Levin
- Former Governor Mario Cuomo
- Former DOT Commisioner Sam Schwartz