HOBOKEN, N.J. (WPIX)—Did they know or did they not know? Days after the largest-ever proposed toll and fare hike on Hudson River crossings, people want to know what Governors Andrew Cuomo and Chris Christie knew about this latest possible hit to your wallet.
The two issued a joint statement after news of the far-reaching hikes got out, saying these increases are causing them to have "obvious and significant concerns." But, since both have the power to veto it, the question is how much influence did they have on the proposal, and when did they know about the final numbers?
Sources are saying the two were involved with the talks for months, although the numbers kept changing. NJ Governor Chris Christie shares what he says was his reaction when he heard the final plan, "You're kidding, right, was my reaction, and I think this is a testimony to the mismanagement of the Port [Authority] for years."
U.S. Senator Bob Menendez of NJ calls the whole situation "either incredible beyond belief or outrageous" and wants Christie to veto it, "I've heard reports that [Christie] and Governor Cuomo were blindsided by this, but I find it really hard to believe -- with the Port Authority having appointees of both governors and both governors having veto power -- that the Port Authority would not have consulted both governors and gotten their approval."
So, in the end, the two governors have significant say on these hikes. But while one is keeping quiet, the other is playing the blame game. Christie says NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg can share some of it. Bloomberg did demand the Port Authority pay up for more security to attract businesses to the Freedom Tower and Christie says that's part of what those extra toll dollars will pay for.
Also not safe in the blame game, Port Authority Executive Director Christopher Ward. Chris Christie says he's the one who's managed the money, a healthy chunk of which is being used to rebuild the World Trade Center site, a project Christie says is over budget but the Port Authority says is not. He also says former NY Governor David Paterson appointed Ward, so he can also share a piece of the blame.
But Christie's blaming continues, "I wish that people would have been more attentive in the last administration to demanding and holding the Port Authority to a budget on lower Manhattan. But they weren't. Gov. [Jon] Corzine was not. Gov. [David] Paterson apparently was not. And Mayor Bloomberg, to the extent that he had input on it as well, was not."
The Proposal and Where The Money Goes
In short, the Port Authority wants a lot more of your money. Under this proposal, the cost of crossing the George Washington Bridge, or driving through the Lincoln or Holland Tunnels will rise from $8 to $12 during peak times if you use EZPass, or to $15 if you're paying cash. And one ride on the PATH train would cost you a buck more. They also want to hike up the cost of a 30-day unlmited PATH pass from $54 to $89. And that's just the first round. More hikes are expected in 2014.
Here's what you are paying for. On the PATH train, the extra buck you may end up paying will go right back into the PATH system, including new platforms. But, for the toll hikes, it goes to much more than that.
The Port Authority is scheduled to vote on the increases on August 19th. Public hearings in New York and New Jersey will be held Tuesday, August 16th, including one to start at 6pm in the conference room of the George Washington Administration Building in Fort Lee, NJ. If the increases pass, they'd take place in September.