The top executive at New York Container Terminal on Staten Island is urging the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to provide a frequent-user discount for truckers whose bridge tolls will more than double by 2015.
“We realize that the port authority needs money,” said James Devine, NYCT’s chief executive. “But these toll increases threaten to destroy the viability of NYCT and damage the economic viability of the entire region.”
The port authority last week imposed steep toll increases for trucks and cars crossing the agency’s bridges and tunnels after Govs. Chris Christie of New Jersey and Andrew Cuomo of New York gave their approval.
Annual increases of $2 per axle will raise tolls for five-axle trucks using E-Z pass tags during rush hours from the current $40 to $90 at the end of 2015. Drivers paying tolls in cash will pay a surcharge of $3 per axle.
The port authority’s toll-increase resolution authorizes the agency’s executive director “to evaluate, and recommend to the board of commissioners, the establishment of a ‘truck repeat volume program.’”
Devine said he hopes the port authority will establish such a program to mitigate the impact of the increases, the first of which takes Sept. 18. A port authority spokesman said a frequent-user program for trucks will be studied.
The toll increases will affect NYCT, the only major container terminal in New York, more than terminals on the New Jersey side of the harbor. Devine said that in 2010, truckers paid the port authority $14 million in bridge tolls to reach NYCT.
The toll increases also have been criticized by port drayage companies, which say they’ll be forced to pass the increases to their customers.
Devine said tolls contributed to APL’s decision to shift its vessel calls to Maher Terminals in New Jersey when the carrier’s contract with NYCT expires next July, although terminal capacity was the main reason. He said Turkon Lines’ 2009 shift to New Jersey was blamed entirely on the tolls.
He said NYCT has the port’s highest crane productivity, with lift rates of 31 to 35 boxes per hour, and has rated tops in several trucker surveys, but that rising bridge tolls pose a severe handicap to attracting and retaining business.
“These tolls are destroying the economic viability of this facility,” he said. “This terminal cannot and will not succeed if this is not fixed. That’s not an overstatement or hyperbole, it’s just fact.”