Is the Port Authority ripping everyone off?
Update: No update on Port Authority Transparency
A quick update about this puzzling Port Authority “inquiry,” (or lack thereof).
Ramos expresses frustration after Senate hearing on Porth Authority
Port Authority Calls Major Toll and Fare Hikes “Fair”
Last week, the US Senate Subcommittee on Surface Transportation, Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security held a hearing yesterday in Washington, DC to discuss oversight of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Chaired by Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), the Subcommittee heard testimony from the Port Authority’s Deputy Executive Director and former NJ State Senator Bill Baroni.
In a heated exchange with Chairman Lautenberg, Mr. Baroni repeatedly described the Hudson River crossing tolls as “fair.”
“The tolling structure and rates for all of the Hudson River crossings are inherently unfair, and it’s ridiculous that Mr. Baroni would state otherwise” said Ramos (D-Hudson). “The new tolling system strongly favors individuals who have the luxury to choose what time of day and type of car they’d like to use to get in or out of the city.”
“I don’t know about Mr. Baroni, but I certainly don’t get to choose when or how I show up to work each morning, and neither can millions of people who rely on Hudson River bridges and tunnels.”
The Port Authority raised tolls in September 2011 by $1.50 for cars with EZ-Pass, and $4.50 for cars paying cash. Shortly following the fare and toll hikes, reports surfaced of multi-million dollar cost overruns at the World Trade Center, rampant patronage appointments, unnecessary overtime and extravagant executive bonuses. An independent audit of the Authority described the bi-state agency as “dysfunctional.”
Efforts by the New Jersey legislature to ascertain information from the PANY/NJ have been unsuccessful thus far. Most recently, the NJ Assembly’s Transportation Committee held a meeting to authorize the issuing of subpoenas of the Authority. A joint hearing of the NJ and NY Transportation Committees has been postponed indefinitely.
“I am eager to see the joint hearing rescheduled in the very near future,” continued Ramos. “It is critically important to our entire region that we hold the Port Authority accountable for every dollar it collects from these exorbitant tolls.”
“I find it ironic that the Port Authority would call these toll and fare hikes ‘fair’, but balked when suggested to pay their fair share in taxes on their tax-exempt properties.”
Ramos is the primary sponsor of Assembly Bill 699, which would require the Port Authority finally begin making payments in lieu of taxes on their property located in the State of NJ.
“The Port Authority should not enjoy special tax-exemptions while it rifles through the pockets of New Jersey’s working class commuters.”
The Port Authority Transparency and Accountability Act, of which Ramos is also a prime sponsor, passed the Assembly Transportation Committee, and is awaiting a vote before the full Assembly. Ramos’ bill requiring the Port Authority to pay taxes on real property in New Jersey passed the Assembly Transportation Committee and is also awaiting a full vote. Mr. Ramos also sponsored AR61, which authorized the Assembly Transportation Committee to issue subpoenas to the Port Authority.
Why is Port Authority so resistant?
Last week, the New Jersey Assembly Transportation Committee passed a resolution that gives them subpoena power to aid in their investigation into how exactly the Port Authority is spending the money they receive from tolls.
“For months, the Port Authority has ignored or refused our repeated requests for information explaining their finances,” says Assemblyman John Wisniewski, chairman of the Assembly transportation panel. “Yesterday, the U.S. Government Accountability Office issued a report that all but stated Gov. Christie killed the planned ARC rail tunnel under the Hudson River for political purposes. The Port Authority portion of that project was to have been $3 billion. Where did that money go? Were toll hikes necessary after this project was canceled? With the subpoena power granted this committee, maybe we can finally get some answers.”
Do you think something fishy is going on at the Port Authority?
Assembly members Ruben Ramos (former Hoboken Councilman), John Wisniewski and Linda Stender comment on the ongoing problem in this video press release.