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Boro business leaders back PA toll increases

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The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey has unveiled plans for region-wide economic growth that includes raising bridge and tunnel tolls by as much as 46 percent.

If it goes through, the plan could bring a hike in tolls as early as next month.

The Port Authority reported that Queens business groups have thrown their support behind the plan, which involves only Hudson River bridges and tunnels.

Jack Friedman, executive vice president of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, said, “The Queens Chamber of Commerce recognizes that the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, in order to fund vital infrastructure projects that generate jobs and economic activity, may have virtually no other choice but to consider imposing reasonable toll and fare increases.”

Seth Bernstein, executive director of the Queens Economic Development Corp., said, “Queens County is home to JFK International and LaGuardia airports, which account for over 85,000 on-airport jobs and thousands more off-airport jobs. As such, a significant portion of the local workforce is affected by the aviation industry.

“Infrastruc­ture investments in our airports and in the region create jobs — both temporary construction jobs — but more importantly permanent jobs. For every 1 million additional passengers that the airports are able to serve, 4,100 permanent jobs are created.”

Timothy Marshall, president of the Jamaica Business Resource Center, said, “During these challenging economic times, no one welcomes a fare and tolling. However, as we understand it, these additional funds will be used to continue much-needed capital and infrastructure investment projects. With the unemployment rate for African-American and Latino communities at an all-time high, we need every opportunity to create jobs. These minority- and women-owned businesses are an important gateway to jobs.”

But the support is less solid when it comes to governors.

Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey said of the proposal, “You’re kidding, right?”

Both Christie and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo have the right to veto the plan.

The Port Authority is scheduled to vote on the matter Friday and the two governors would be required to decide by Sept. 1 whether to approve or veto it.

The plan includes a two-stage toll increase for the George Washington Bridge, Lincoln and Holland tunnels, Bayonne and Goethals bridges and the Outerbridge Crossing.

The plan would hike peak hour E-ZPass tolls on the bridges and tunnels to $12 from $8. Drivers paying in cash would see the highest increases — up by $7 to $15 per trip. A single fare on the Port Authority Trans-Hudson line would go from $1.75 to $2.75.

The Port Authority said its $33 billion plan would generate 167,000 jobs and $38.4 billion in sales and would include such projects as replacing 592 suspender ropes on the George Washington Bridge, never replaced since the span opened in 1931, and replacing of the helix approach to the Lincoln Tunnel in New Jersey.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at timesledgernews@cnglocal.com or phone at 718-260-4536.

Updated 11:30 am, October 12, 2011
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