Could reform be on the way for Port Authority of New York New Jersey?
October 15, 2019
Reform at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is once again a topic of legislation at the New Jersey statehouse.
The bill would require the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to have an independent entity conduct a needs assessment prior to any toll increase on a bridge or tunnel. The agency operates six airports, six bridges and tunnels, and bus terminals.
A decade of toll increases
In 2011, multiphase toll rate increases for cars and trucks were implemented. The series of five toll hikes were approved two weeks after eight public hearings were scheduled on the same day.
The agency’s actions created a backlash. Citing a lack of public input in the decision to increase tolls, state lawmakers have sought rule changes to improve transparency and accountability at the Port Authority.
The bistate agency also has undertaken reforms to improve the process of receiving public input.
Then-Gov. Chris Christie acted in 2013 to veto a Port Authority reform effort. He said the agency’s efforts to be proactive with concerns were sufficient. Instead, he called on legislators to focus their attention on all of the state’s multijurisdictional authorities.
A new round of toll and fare increases are slated to take effect next month. The 11-member board of commissioners that oversees the agency approved the rate proposals.
The agency cites “unprecedented” levels of passenger and cargo growth at all facilities. Inflation is also cited for the first increases since 2015.
The increases follow six public hearings – three in each state – from July through September.
“We recognize all toll, fare and fee increases are painful. Nobody wants to pay more,” Port Authority Chairman Kevin O’Toole said in prepared remarks. He added that 1,300 comments received led to important changes to the proposal.
For heavy trucks, a 4.8% to 6.5% toll increase will begin on Jan. 5.
Legislative reform effort
Assembly Democrats Valeria Vainieri Huttle of Bergen, and Assemblyman Gordon Johnson of Bergen, are once again pursuing changes at the Port Authority.
This year’s legislation, A5713, would require six public hearings on any toll increase between 30 and 90 days before the board votes on the toll increase.
The same rule would be applied for proposed fare increases for the use of the Port Authority Trans-Hudson Corp. rail system.
The bill is in the Assembly Transportation and Independent Authorities Committee.
In other news this year from New Jersey earlier this year, Gov. Phil Murphy has signed into law a bill to revise the process for the administration and oversight of Transportation Trust Fund projects that are funded with fuel tax revenue.