In a long-awaited response, the federal Department of Transportation has denied a request by AAA New York to intervene on behalf of drivers to roll back the recent toll hikes on Port Authority facilities.
DOT Secretary Ray LaHood said in a letter to AAA New York that since Congress passed the Surface Transportation and Uniform Relocation Assistance Act in 1987, his agency no longer has “…oversight of tolls on interstate bridges over navigable waters,” but that “…‘the just and reasonable’ requirement for toll increases remains in effect.”
AAA New York and North Jersey’s case against the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in federal court continues with two procedural actions in November, and a Show Cause hearing in open court on December 1st. AAA is also working with supportive New York State lawmakers, including Senator Tony Avella (D-Whitestone), to enact legislation requiring the Port Authority to use toll revenue for transportation, not real estate development. With the Port Authority a bi-state agency of New York and New Jersey, similar legislation would be needed by the New Jersey legislature.
Federal elected officials, most notably Rep. Michael Grimm (R-Staten Island), have supported AAA’s efforts to restrain the Port Authority by filing an amicus brief in support of the lawsuit, and through potential federal legislation.
“Our organization sees the toll hikes as illegal,” said AAA New York’s director of government affairs John Corlett. “The DOT seems to agree, citing the Bridge Act that says that tolls on interstate facilities must be ‘just and reasonable,’ but trusting the Port Authority to use toll money the right way is an exercise in futility,” Corlett said.
AAA New York provides automotive, travel and financial services to 1.6 million members in New York City, Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, Rockland, Orange, Sullivan, Ulster, Dutchess, Putnam, Herkimer, Chenango, Delaware, Schoharie, Otsego and Oneida counties.