Gov. Hochul Retains Staten Islanders’ Discounted Tolls on the Verrazzano Bridge
By Yehudit Garmaise
In the 2023 Executive Budget Gov. Kathy Hochul announced last week, she proposed $216 billion to fully fund Staten Islanders’ deeply discounted tolls rates on the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge, after the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), which faced billions of dollars in debt, considered completing cutting the Staten Island Residents’ discount program.
In 2020, the MTA’s dept had reached a shocking $38 billion and was expected to approach $47 billion by 2023, according to New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli’s annual report in April 2021.
The debt, DiNapoli said was due to “severe revenue declines and increased borrowing, caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
After the MTA said it was considering cutting the deeply discounted bridge tolls, which allows borough Staten Islanders to pay $2.75 in each direction: compared with the $6.55 E-ZPass rate or the $10.17 Tolls-by-Mail rate other New Yorkers pay, many Staten Island commuters and elected officials strongly objected: claiming that the elimination of the discounted toll program would devastate the finances of many Staten Island families.
In response to the public outcry, former MTA Chairman and CEO Pat Foye said that the agency would retain the program, however, in February 2021, the MTA approved numerous toll policy changes, including one that increased the Staten Island resident discount rate for the Verrazzano Bridge from $2.75 to $2.95.
Just days before the 20-cent increase took effect, state lawmakers announced that they had secured more funding in the state’s budget to keep the effective toll at its existing prices.
Maintaining Staten Islanders’ resident discounts on the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge, which was built in 1959, has long been a priority of Assemblyman Michael Cusick (D-Mid-Island) and other state lawmakers, with the bridge, which was built in 1959, serves as one of the borough residents’ only connection, by land, to the other four boroughs.
“Preserving and funding the Staten Island Resident Verrazzano Bridge toll discount has been a top priority of mine throughout my entire time in the New York State Assembly,” said Assemblyman Cusick, who established the discount program in 2014 alongside State Sen. Andrew Lanza (R-Staten Island). “This discount is vitally important for Staten Islanders who have historically been disproportionately impacted by burdensome tolls.
“Hard-working Staten Islanders who commute to other boroughs rely heavily on this discount to keep their commute practical and affordable.”