Last week, Sen. Frank Lautenberg and Rep. Michael Grimm introduced a bill to would restore the U.S. Department of Transportation's ability to determine whether toll hikes are reasonable, and give the Department authority to prescribe more reasonable tolls.
The bill is a response to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey's August plan to raise tolls between the states - from $8 to $15 by 2015. DOT hasn't had toll oversight authority since 1987's ISTEA highway bill.
The American Trucking Associations President and CEO Bill Graves thanked Rep. Grimm and Sen. Lautenberg for their efforts in restricting unreasonable and unjustified toll increases.
"We applaud Rep. Grimm and Sen. Lautenberg for introducing this vital piece of legislation," Graves said. "Having seen the toll increase proposed by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, they are acutely aware of the negative impact of allowing toll agencies unchecked power to raise tolls for whatever reason they want."
On Aug. 19 the Port Authority approved an increase in toll hikes that will raise tolls for cars between New Jersey and New York from $8 to $15 by 2015. For cars with E-Z Pass, the toll will be raised from $8 to $12.50 over the same period of time. Five-axle trucks that currently pay $40 dollars will have to pay up to $125 by 2015.
"There are a number of reasons why tolling is bad public policy, but that policy gets worse when the tolls are raised without consideration for the users of highways and bridges and the revenue generated is not dedicated for their benefit, but rather stolen for other projects," Graves said. "It is our hope that when this bill becomes law, the U.S. Department of Transportation will put a stop to increases like the one being pushed through in New York City."
The bill would also require Government Accountability Office (GAO) to report on and make recommendations for increasing the transparency and accountability of tolling authority budget practices.
"When it costs $12 to drive your car across a bridge in America, something is wrong. While the Port Authority and the two states are struggling to explain why these dramatic hikes were imposed, commuters are suffering," Sen. Launtenberg was quoted by njtoday.net "Given these out of control toll hikes and the cloud of misinformation surrounding them, these federal protections for commuters need to be restored."