June 22, 2016 By Jackie Strawbridge
A version of the controversial “Move NY” transportation plan, which would redistribute tolls among the City’s bridges and crossings, was introduced in the State Senate earlier this month with a slightly lower Queensboro Bridge fare than has been previously proposed.
“Move NY” has been a subject of debate since it was formally proposed by a coalition of transportation advocates in February 2015; it was introduced as a bill in the State Assembly by Member Robert Rodriguez of Manhattan this past March.
Rodriguez’s bill would add a toll to East River bridges, including the Queensboro, of $5.54 with E-ZPass or $8 without. These numbers are matched with the tolls at the Queens-Midtown Tunnel and Hugh L. Carey (Brooklyn-Battery) Tunnel. In contrast the Senate legislation, introduced by State Sen. Andrew Lanza of Staten Island, proposes a $5 Queensboro toll with E-ZPass.
The plan also involves discounting other major bridges that are currently tolled, including the Triborough/RFK, by up to 48 percent.
Advocates of the Move NY plan believe that this “toll swap” would be more fair for drivers on the Triborough/RFK and other tolled bridges, who have fewer transportation alternatives. Meanwhile, they charge that it would de-incentivize the Queensboro Bridge, therefore reducing congestion and pollution around Queens Plaza.
The primary promised benefit of the overall plan is that millions of new dollars in revenue would be created, which would then go towards improving New York City’s public transit and transportation infrastructure.
Lanza said that his bill will create $1.31 billion annually in new revenue, down from $1.35 billion promised by the Assembly version.
The Senate is out of session and Lanza said in a press release that he will take the summer to work with Rodriguez to reconcile the differences between their two bills.
Move NY Campaign Director Alex Matthiessen said that another issue to be clarified is what exactly the East River bridge toll reduction will be for non-E-ZPass users.
“I’m pleased that Assemblyman Rodriguez’s bill and my bill are very close and I look forward to working with him in the coming months to marry the two bills and do the work needed to pass the bills in both houses,” Lanza said in a statement.
The Move NY plan has long been contentious in Queens, due largely to the fact that so many neighborhoods have limited access to public transportation.
In western Queens, State Sen. Jose Peralta has voiced his support for the plan and is a co-sponsor on Lanza’s bill; State Sen. Gianaris has not stated a position and is “skeptical,” a spokesperson said in March.
In the Assembly, Member Aravella Simotas has said she is “not sure that this proposal gets us where we want to go.”
Simotas nor her colleague Assembly Member Cathy Nolan immediately responded to request for comment Wednesday.