Ah, yes. Another week, another Queens transportation issue.
Two weeks ago, in this space, we explored the frustration surrounding ludicrously long commute times, especially for residents of southern borough communities, and how that could ostensibly be alleviated by the reactivation of the long-defunct Rockaway Beach Rail Line.
This week, we cautiously wade deeper into the murky waters of Lake Ludicrous to discuss the continued absurdity that is the Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge toll for World’s Borough residents.
As State Sen. Joe Addabbo, Jr. (D-Howard Beach) noted on Monday, Metropolitan Transportation Authority Bridges and Tunnels staff have begun to remove tolling stations along the Cross Bay Bridge as part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plans to implement cashless tolling for all MTA-operated spans in the New York metropolitan area by the end of the year. Beginning April 30, the Bridge will feature open-road tolling – sensors and cameras will be suspended over the highway on structures called “gantries” that read E-ZPass tags and take license plate images, so vehicles no longer have to stop to pay.
We believe certain vehicles should not be compelled to pay the toll. Period.
“Access over the bridge should be free for all Queens residents,” Addabbo said. “We all know that the Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge is the only bridge in New York City that requires you pay a toll to travel within the same borough. As I recently drove into the Rockaway part of my district and watched the dismantling of the toll structures there, I thought that this toll should be eliminated totally.”
That familiar transportation frustration begins to settle in when we stop and really consider that the Cross Bay Bridge is the only link in the greatest city in the world that requires drivers to pay a fee to travel WITHIN THE SAME BOROUGH.
According to the State Senate, the bridge is the only practical access to shopping and services for residents. The toll had been free for 12 years for those Broad Channel and Rockaway residents who used E-Z Pass, but was reinstated a few years ago to help close an $800 million gap in the MTA budget.
In December 2011, former U.S. Rep. Bob Turner penned a letter to Cuomo, calling on the governor to bring a merciful end to the only intra-borough bridge toll in the Big Apple.
“There is no justification for the residents of Queens to bear this toll,” Turner said in the missive. “Quite simply, the toll is a discriminatory fee against Queens’ residents. It forces them to pay a toll to travel from one part of the borough to another. It is a dubious and expensive distinction that my constituents who commute to New York City, who visit friends and family in Queens, and who travel throughout the area have to pay this toll.”
Turner ended the letter by appealing to Cuomo’s roots.
“You and I were raised in Queens. We understand and appreciate the area’s wonderful cultural and geographic diversity, particularly along the coastal areas in the Rockaways. I am sure that you would agree that this geographic diversity should not come at an unfair cost to the residents of the borough.”
Toss the toll. Forever.