Today, Representatives Michael Grimm (R-SI/Brooklyn) and Gregory Meeks (D-Queens) helped safeguard the current toll discounts for New York residents with this evening's House passage of their bill, the Residential and Commuter Toll Fairness Act (H.R. 897). This bipartisan bill would allow state and municipal governments to offer discounted rates to residents for trips taken on roads, bridges, rail, bus, ferry, or other transportation systems. This legislation is in response to a 2009 case, Selevan v. New York Thruway Authority, in which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit questioned the constitutionality of the discounts for residents of towns bordering the New York Thruway.
"On Staten Island, we have fought tirelessly to reach an agreement on residential toll discounts, which is why this legislation is crucial to ensure that the new rates are never called into question again by the courts," said Grimm. "I thank Chairman Mica -- who visited Staten Island last year and saw firsthand the devastating impact of tolls on our community - for his support in moving this bill forward. Today's passage of this bill is a small victory for the people of New York, particularly my constituents who commute over the Verrazano or the three PA bridges connecting us to New Jersey. However, the fight is not over until immediate toll relief is brought to the businesses and jobs that are suffering as the result of the PA's outrageous toll hikes on commercial vehicles."
Transportation toll discount programs that are based on residential status do not discriminate against those individuals who do not receive these discounts, but instead address actual unequal and undue financial burdens placed on residents of certain jurisdictions that have no other way of accessing those areas other than through a means that requires them to pay a toll. The Residential and Commuter Toll Fairness Act provides clarification 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.
The costs add up for residents paying tolls on a daily basis, especially for New Yorkers who pay the highest tolls in the country. This legislation would protect the current discount programs offered to residents traveling across the Verrazano-Narrows, Cross Bay, Goethals, and Bayonne Bridges and the Outerbridge Crossing. Residents across the country benefit from the financial relief provided by residential discount programs. It will allow the current policies to continue, as well as provide the opportunity for new residential discount programs to be created.