The only intra-borough toll in New York State has been partially eliminated for the residents most directly impacted — in the Rockaways and the small hamlet of Broad Channel.
Governor Andrew Cuomo included in the New York State 2012- 2013 budget a discount for Rockaway and Broad Channel residents that use the Cross Bay Bridge to go to and from the peninsula and into Broad Channel and the neighboring area of Howard Beach.
The discount is only for drivers who use an E-Z Pass to pay for the toll. When someone drives up to the E-Z Pass lane, their card gets charged the money it costs to pass the toll and it immediately gets put back on their card. The state is paying the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) the money they would otherwise get from people using their E-Z Pass.
This discount is only for people who have their E-Z pass registered in the Rockaway and Broad Channel zip code. If you have a pass that is registered outside of that zip code, your E-Z Pass will still get charged as it normally would. If you were using cash to pay for the toll, you would also still pay the $3.25 it costs to get past the toll.
Congressman Bob Turner (R-Queens), who has been fighting to eliminate the toll since he’s been in Congress, said that this is a step in the right direction but there’s still more work to be done to eliminate the toll completely.
“This is really an unfair tax, it’s in the same zip code,” said Turner in an interview with The Forum.
There is also a chance that the discount could be cut from the state budget and residents would go back to paying for a toll even if they had an E-Z Pass. In response to a question regarding the discount and the state budget, Turner said that he doesn’t expect residents to have to pay for the toll even if it is cut from the budget. He added that he expects that the state will work something out with the MTA if it is cut from the budget.
State Senator Joe Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) also called the discount a positive for people who use the toll on a daily basis.
“This is a big win for these burdened communities made up of hard-working families who will finally see some relief from an unnecessary financial hardship and should help business owners there, as well,” Addabbo said in a statement.
State Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Far Rockaway) said that he’s glad this is finally happening for the residents that live on the peninsula and need to pay the toll to do their daily activities.
“This is something that I have been campaigning for since I ran for office and I’m glad that it’s finally come to fruition,” said Goldfeder speaking to The Forum. He was elected to that state assembly seat in September 2011.
Goldfeder also said that he hopes to pass through the assembly a bill that would eliminate the toll for all residents of Queens.
Between 1997 and 2010, Rockaway residents had gotten their money back on their E-Z Pass for every round trip, but the MTA reinstated the money on July, 23, 2010 to help close an $800 million budget gap.
The toll for a non-resident with an E-Z Pass is $1.80 and for anyone paying with cash, the toll costs $3.25. The toll for a resident with an E-Z Pass was $1.19 per trip for the first two trips of the day. After that, the fee was waived for any other trips made that same day.
With the discount in effect, one Rockaway resident saves $2.38 for one day of using the toll. For a week, that resident would save $16.66. In one month, he or she would save $71.40 or $73.38 depending on if the month is 30 or 31 days long. For an entire year, that resident would save about $870 in toll money.
By Luis Gronda