East River toll legislation by Move New York gains support

With new tweaks, the Move New York toll legislation is picking up support in New York City’s suburbs.

The Move NY campaign will announce Thursday that eight more Assembly members, primarily from the Hudson Valley and Long Island areas, have signed on as co-sponsors of legislation that would radically alter the city’s tolling structure in order to bring sustained funding to its transit infrastructure.

“We still have a little bit of work to do, but we’re picking up momentum,” said Alex Matthiessen, Move NY campaign director. “There’s a growing recognition that there doesn’t seem to be a lot of alternatives out there to fund the MTA, city roads and bridges, and people are starting to recognize that Move NY is the best plan out there.”

The Move NY bill, introduced in March by Assembly member Robert J. Rodriguez, would toll Manhattan’s four East River Bridges and all roads intersecting with 60th Street.

All funds would be pumped back into the local transit agencies for service expansion and infrastructure upgrades. It would also lower tolls at less frequented crossings, like the Verrazano Bridge, to benefit drivers with fewer mass transit options.

On Thursday, Assembly members Thomas J. Abinanti, David Buchwald, Vivian Cook, Earlene Hooper, Brian Kavanagh, Amy Paulin, Annette Robinson, and Fred W. Thiele, Jr., will all throw their support behind the bill after new provisions were added.

Most significantly, Move NY is announcing Thursday that legislation would create three Transit Gap Improvement Funds — one each for New York City (to get $4.5 billion annually), Long Island ($350 million annually) and the Hudson Valley ($350 million annually) for local public transit and surface-level accessibility improvement projects, like street redesigns or an improved subway stairwell.

“We’re going community board by community board,” said Assemblyman Rodriguez, who has been rallying support. “We’re having this conversation: ‘Are your needs currently being met by existing transportation options? As we ask that question, the answer is either ‘no,’ or ‘yes, but it could be much better.’”

Still, some officials are hesitant to introduce more tolls in the city, especially as current fares keep rising.

“I’m against the legislation mainly because I’m against tolling the bridges,” said Queens Assemblyman David Weprin. “I’m very skeptical that once you institute the infrastructure and start putting tolls on the bridges that they’ll stay in place at a lower level.”

But as the MTA hits record ridership and remains strapped for cash, transit advocates say Move NY could boost the city’s crippled infrastructure.

“This bill is fundamentally fairer for transit riders and for drivers,” said John Raskin, executive director of the Riders Alliance. “That’s what so special about it. The real reason it’s getting some traction is because there is a huge unmet need to improve public transit in New York.”

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