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Public Statements

Residential and Commuter Toll Fairness Act of 2011

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. GRIMM. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman from Arkansas.

Just to clarify the record, this bill, which I stand in strong support of--but actually before that, let me just say that I want to thank my colleague and friend, GREG MEEKS, for all of his work on this. It was a true bipartisan effort. But this bill, all it does is clarify what is already allowed by law. So to say that it is overly broad, it's almost ridiculous because again, all this does is clarify what is already allowed by law. States and cities already have. There were challenges in court that have failed, and the purpose of this legislation is to make sure that those frivolous challenges do not continue to go forward.

The Residential and Commuter Toll Fairness Act, I feel it is vital to toll discount programs, specifically for my constituents, but for all of New York and throughout this country.

I would like to also thank Chairman Mica, who traveled to my district, to Staten Island, for moving this bill forward and for seeing firsthand in Staten Island the devastating effects and the impacts that tolls can have.

Again, this bill, all it does is continue to clarify and allow the States and municipal governments to offer the discounted toll rates to residents for trips taken on roads, bridges, rail, bus, ferry, and other transportation systems.

I introduced the legislation for one purpose: it was in response to a 2009 case in which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit questioned the constitutionality of discounts for residents of towns bordering the New York Thruway. In New York, we simply can't afford to lose our discounts.

The majority of my district in New York City is an island; it's Staten Island. And the only way to drive on or off the island is to cross a bridge and pay a toll, something many of my constituents do often as part of their daily commute. Without a discount, it costs $13 to cross the Verrazano Bridge. Yes, I said $13 without the Staten Island residential EZ-Pass discount. On the other side of Staten Island, going to New Jersey, the cash tolls on three bridges have just gone up to $12, and that amount is slated to go up in 2015 to $15. That's without the residential discount.

On Staten Island, we have fought long and hard to reach an agreement on residential toll discounts, which is why this legislation is crucial to making sure we protect those new rates.

The Residential Commuter Toll Fairness Act provides clarification only of the existing authority of local governments to issue or grant transportation toll, user fee or fare discount programs based on residential status. It also provides congressional authorization for discount programs. Passage of H.R. 897 is nothing more than clarification of what can already be done, and I ask for the strong support of my colleagues.

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