BY TOM HESTER SR.
New Jerseyans could face a $2 increase in the $8 toll they pay to drive to New York City and state to get to work or find some entertainment.
Gov. Chris Christie on Tuesday said he would consider a proposal to raise tolls by 25 percent on six tunnels and bridges controlled by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey before the end of the year. The governor added that he has not seen any formal plans for such an action.
"If one is presented, I certainly will give it due consideration," Christie told reporters in Trenton. He and and the New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo would have to approve a toll hike.
The Port Authority last hiked tolls in 2008, a 33-percent increase that brought the cost of crossing the Hudson River to $8. A 25-percent hike would put the toll at $10.
A report in the New York Post on Tuesday quoted an anonymous Port Authority source as saying Christie had given a "green light" to a $2 increase in the $8 toll.
But speaking to reporters in Trenton today, Christie said no plan had been proposed to him or the Port Authority board.
Port Authority Director Christopher Ward has repeatedly refused to rule out a toll increase. Jamie Loftus, the agency’s chief spokeswoman told The Star-Ledger on Tuesday, "We’re always looking at the financial requirements and what the needs are."
"That story is wrong," Christie said of the Post report. "There has been no plans presented to the board of the Port Authority for consideration, certainly none has been presented to me."
Christie told reporters that he had spoken about the Post story with Port Authority chairman, David Samson, who was appointed to the post by the governor last fall. The governor also said the subject of a toll increase had never come up in conversations with Cuomo.
Christie has publicly vowed never to raise taxes on New Jerseyans although in the face of multi-billion budget deficits he has cut tax rebates and funding for social programs.
The worst economic downturn since the Great Depression has led to declines in the use of the tunnels and bridges, the Star-Ledger notes at a time when the Port Authority is pushing ahead with billions of dollars in projects including redevelopment of the World Trade Center site, raising the Bayonne Bridge and replacing the Goethals Bridge.
The agency, according to the Star-Ledger, cut long-term capital plan by $5 billion in 2009 in response to declining revenues. The agency shed another $3 billion in projected spending last fall when Christie canceled a trans-Hudson commuter rail project that Port Authority had committed to under Gov. Jon Corzine. Shortly after, Christie called on the agency to spend $1.8 billion of that money on improvements New Jersey highways.