Verrazano-Narrows Bridge Toll Could Rise to $11


verrazanoIt looks like the toll on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge will spike to $11, state Sen. Diane Savino said yesterday, up from the current $10, while the resident E-ZPass discount will increase 42 cents to $5.40, beginning next month. The toll hikes are less onerous than the ones laid out under the MTA’s so-called doomsday budget that threatened to increase the Verrazano toll to a whopping $13 for non-residents and $6.30 for resident E-ZPass discount holders in the event of legislative inaction.Ms. Savino (D-North Shore/Brooklyn), part of the Democratic majority that controls the state Senate, portrayed the toll hikes as a done deal in the latest MTA bailout plan — and the best deal possible.

“This is what will be happening,” she said, before adding, “This can always change,” noting that both houses of the Legislature and the governor still need to sign off on the bailout.

Staten Island’s representative on the MTA board, Allen Cappelli, confirmed the increase, while also cautioning, “The bill is not done yet.”

Meanwhile, confusion, a lack of consensus — and a lack of communication — seemed to reign among members of the borough’s Albany six-person delegation yesterday.

While Ms. Savino spoke of the hike as a fait accompli, Assemblyman Michael Cusick (D-Mid-Island) appeared to offer a glimmer of hope for Staten Island drivers, saying that his leader, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan), was “on board” in holding the line against any increase in the Verrazano fare.

Cusick said Silver had met with him, Assemblywoman Janele Hyer-Spencer (D-Mid-Island/Brooklyn) and Assemblyman Matthew Titone (D-North Shore) to hear them out against any increase.

“He is speaking for us,” said Cusick of Silver’s negotiations on the issue. “He is standing pat on that.”

Yet Ms. Hyer-Spencer told the Advance that while Silver “listened to us [and] affirmed that he heard what we were saying … we don’t have a commitment from him.” She added that at no time did Silver take the possibility of a toll hike on the Verrazano off the table.

And in an ominous sign that the Verrazano isn’t exactly at the top of Silver’s agenda, Silver press spokesman Dan Weiller didn’t even know that the toll on the V-N is $10, when asked to comment on where Silver stands.

“The current toll is, what?” asked Weiller. “Eight dollars?”

Weiller subsequently called back to say: “The speaker agrees with the delegation that a $13 toll is unacceptable. His preference is to have no increase, but ultimately he understands it will be a decision by the MTA board.”

All this as Titone finally returned two days’ worth of phone calls from the Advance last night, only to say “there is nothing written in stone” on the toll-hike front.

As for delegation’s two Republicans, state Sen. Andrew Lanza (R-Staten Island) and Assemblyman Lou Tobacco (R-South Shore), both lamented that they hadn’t been afforded a “seat at the table,” due to their minority status.

Lanza said state Senate Majority Leader Malcom Smith (D-Queens) had repeatedly rebuffed his requests to meet about the Verrazano toll. He said Smith “needs to demonstrate his strength” with his razor-thin Democratic majority by “excluding” Republicans from the process and “delivering his 32-member” conference without GOP input.

This even as Tobacco continued to hold out hope that “the toll won’t be touched” because of the notoriety his “No Taxation Without Transportation” bumper sticker campaign has sparked, highlighting the inequity of a toll on the Verrazano while the East and Harlem river bridges are free.

{SI Advance/ Newscenter}