BY LUIS GRONDA
Two Queens elected officials are looking to keep the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge free while another group says placing a toll would benefit the City’s economy.
State Senator Tony Avella (D-Bayside) said last week he would introduce legislation to prohibit a toll on any bridge that is operated by New York City. This specifically includes the bridges surrounding the East River, including the Queensboro as well as the Manhattan, Brooklyn and Third Avenue bridges.
Both Avella and Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Fresh Meadows) said placing a toll on those bridges would be unfair to commuters who travel to Manhattan on a daily basis and may not be able to afford its potential price tag.
Avella also said putting any toll may not bring additional revenue to the City’s infrastructure because that money could be taken and used for other areas.
“In my opinion, it is discriminatory to charge people to go from one part of the City to the other,” the State Senator said. “People in Queens for example, this probably goes for Brooklyn and the Bronx as well, we don’t have enough mass transit. There are places in Queens where you need a car to get around.”
Weprin said bridges like the Queensboro are essential for small businesses to travel back and forth for work and placing a toll would negatively impact them.
“The aggressive tax that would occur if the bridges were tolled would be devastating to small businesses and people that rely on those bridges,” he said.
But members of one transit group said they believe the toll would benefit the City.
MoveNY has introduced a plan that would place tolls on the bridges currently not in place and lower prices on other bridges like the Verrazano.
Alex Matthiesen, the director of MoveNY, said this would raise about $1.5 billion in revenue for the City and decrease prices on other bridges that commuters currently pay for, such as the Whitestone Bridge. He said he contends Avella’s opinion, because drivers should bear costs just like subway commuters.
The plan is centered around placing tolls on bridges that are currently free and lowering the prices of other bridges. It was created by MoveNY and Sam Schwartz, a prominent traffic expert who is also known as “Gridlock Sam.”
Matthiesen said the toll on the Queensboro would be $5.33 if the plan was adopted.
Reach Luis Gronda at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 127, firstname.lastname@example.org or @luisgronda.