Travelers will have to pay up to $15 to enter New York City after the agency that owns the World Trade Center and most of the transportation links into Manhattan raised its tolls Friday, partly to cover the soaring costs of rebuilding at ground zero.
Board members of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey voted to gradually raise cash tolls at tunnels and bridges from $8 to $15 in 2015. Fares on the Port Authority Trans Hudson subway will go from $1.75 to $2.75. The first round of increases takes effect Sept. 18.
The agency's coffers have been drained by $6 billion in security-related projects following the 9/1 1 attacks, a $2.6 billion drop in revenue caused by the global economic slump and the $11 billion World Trade Center complex. Board Chairman David Samson said there were no plans to cut back on plans for the site.
"It is our moral obligation to the families of the victims lost that day that we rebuild," he said.
The agency had originally proposed even steeper toll increases but was forced to scale back after the governors of New York and New Jersey threatened to veto them.
During a public comment session before the vote, opponents accused the Port Authority of wasting money. A New York state audit this week criticized the agency for spending $86 million on overtime last year.
Richard Hughes, co-founder of the Twin Towers Alliance, told board members they had should have done a better job of managing reconstruction of ground zero.
"If the Port Authority had simply done its civic duty after 9/1 1, today we would have gleaming new twin towers soaring over lower Manhattan, and they would have been up for years." he said. "The public is now being asked to foot the bill for the Port Authority's arrogance, extravagance and incompetence."
On a PATH train from Manhattan to Jersey City, commuters fumed that the increases were put through after just one day of public hearings, and that they come as many families are trying to cut expenses.
Beginning Sept. 18, drivers will pay $1.50 more to enter New York from New Jersey. Smaller increases will continue yearly until 2015. Drivers paying with cash instead of the E-ZPass transponder system would have to pay $2 extra.
The $1.75 fare to ride the PATH train will increase 25 cents a year for four years.
The additional money will go toward a $25 billion capital improvement plan that includes replacing cables on the George Washington Bridge, rebuilding the highway "helix" that leads into the Lincoln Tunnel and putting security barriers around airport terminals.
The Port Authority also wants to raise the roadway of the Bayonne Bridge by 64 feet to accommodate the new, larger cargo ships that will start plying the world's oceans after the planned widening of the Panama Canal.