Staten Islanders Demand More From Mayoral Candidates Over Verrazano-Narrows Bridge Toll Hikes

Source: Glabb via Wikimedia Commons
Source: Glabb via Wikimedia Commons

The cost to travel over the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge is very high and has been a point of concern for Staten Island and Southern Brooklyn residents commuting from one island to the other. An editorial by SI Live crystallized these complaints, noting that the issue was all but ignored by the presumed winners of the primaries, Bill de Blasio and Joe Lhota.

The price for Staten Islanders with E-ZPass to cross the bridge is $6.36, dropping to $6 after three round-trips taken in a month. Those without E-ZPass pay a whopping $15 a trip, the highest toll in the nation. No matter how you slice it, the costs have been prohibitive for commuters and business-people making their way over the bridge on a daily basis. SI Live expressed disappointment over the relative lack of concern the toll issue received in the primary election, first aiming their disapproval with de Blasio:

Mr. de Blasio’s campaign was based largely on a repudiation of much of what the administration of Mayor Michael Bloomberg has done, as well as a sheaf of liberal initiatives.
Staten Island’s transportation issues — specifically the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge toll — did not even seem to be on his radar during the primary race. At one debate after Staten Island’s elected officials agreed that onerous tolls on the Verrazano hurt families and business, Mr. de Blasio said that he would first commission a study on the economic impact of the tolls and base his position on that study.
That brought this well-deserved rebuke from another Democrat, Sal Albanese: “Bill, you don’t need a study,” he said. “It’s common sense. It’s the most onerous toll in the country.”
As he campaigns for mayor here in coming weeks, as seems probable, Staten Islanders have to press Mr. de Blasio to expand on this subject.

SI Live was also miffed at Lhota’s lack of a solution for the toll problem, speculating that it might have been why Staten Island Republicans went for opponent John Catsimatidis:

Mr. Lhota did offer the ideal long-term solution during a debate earlier this month: A rail bridge to Brooklyn that would give Staten Island access to the subway network that serves the other four boroughs.
It’s a wonderful idea, but at this point, it’s wholly unrealistic given the amount of money and disruption this would entail.
Interestingly enough, although Mr. Lhota offers a practical view of government that is in line with the down-to-earth views of many Staten Islanders, he lost the primary vote on Staten Island by eight percentage points to billionaire John Catsimatidis. This was the only borough in which Mr. Lhota lost the Republican vote…
Staten Island Republicans took it out on Mr. Lhota the mayoral candidate, even though Mr. Catsimatidis offered nothing but a vague promise to undo the toll hike.
Mr. Lhota insists the toll increase was already in the pipeline when he took over at as MTA chief, and he’ll undoubtedly repeat that claim as he campaigns for mayor. But the damage has been done in the most Republican-friendly borough where he will need every vote he can get.

Lastly, the editorial made it clear that Staten Islanders are fed up with the MTA, feeling abused by the transit authority and pushed to the margins in the mayoral campaign:

Even if most Staten Islanders don’t have to pay that much, it became a symbol of the MTA’s arrogant disregard for the people of this borough as it uses Verrazano toll booths as an ATM to underwrite its other far-flung enterprises…
So it seems that, for different reasons, the two leading candidates, Mr. de Blasio, the probable Democratic nominee, and Mr. Lhota, the Republican standard-bearer, both have a lot of explaining to do when it comes to tolls.
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