Port Authority Toll Hikes Not the Fix We Need

The Port Authority should not provide cover for the governors of New York and New Jersey

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    NEWSLETTERS

    When gamblers pay off members of a team to control the score, it’s called a fix.
          
    Now the question for commuters from New York and New Jersey is:  when the Port Authority raised the tolls on bridges and tunnels, was the fix in? There’s a suspicion in some quarters that it was.    

    If it was a political fix, that doesn’t make it more savory.       
    The Port Authority has just raised tolls at six bridges and tunnels. The 12 members of the Authority are appointed by the governors of New York and New Jersey. But, initially, when the authority first announced it was raising tolls, the governors said they opposed it. Now that the authority has spread the increase out over five years, Governors Cuomo and Christie say it’s okay.
           
    One small businessman, Peter De Sheplo, who owns the G. W. Taxi in Fort Lee, says he’s already paying $10,000 a month in tolls for his fleet of 11 taxis. “Now,” he told me, “I’ll have to raise the fares even more and I expect my customers won’t like it. Where does it end? Why should the burden fall on the shoulders of the small businessman?
           
    “I think there’s a been a backdoor deal between the two governors. First, they oppose the toll increase. Then they say they’re for a compromise -- so they look like heroes.
          
    “It costs 22.50 now to go to Kennedy or LaGuardia. Soon it will go up to 25.50. I’ll have to raise my prices but the customers may not understand. I don’t know what’s happening in this country -- there’s no break for the little guy.”      
             
    The saddest aspect of the whole deal is that much of the authority’s revenue is going to help rebuild the World Trade Center.
              
    I recall some battles that took place many years ago when the late labor lawyer Ted Kheel -- who happened to be my lawyer and good friend --  took on Austin Tobin, executive director of the authority. Kheel strongly opposed the building of the World Trade Center. He said the authority had been set up by the two states to improve transportation and freight facilities in the port of New York. Kheel argued the authority was not supposed to be in the real estate business. He lost.
               
    But now it’s the taxpayers, the toll payers, the people of New York and New Jersey who are the losers. 
               
    You can’t help smelling that, once again, the fix is in.

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