New York Container Terminal and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey have agreed on a plan to offset the impact of bridge toll increases that have raised truckers’ costs and reduced cargo volume at the Staten Island terminal.
The agreement provides a lifeline to NYCT, the only major container terminal on the New York side of the harbor. NYCT’s business has withered since 2011, when the port authority began phasing in steep increases in tolls on bridges to and from Staten Island.
“With the toll program soon to be in place, NYCT will be in a much better position to compete for business within the harbor,” said Jim Devine, the terminal’s president and CEO. “This provides us with a lifeline.”
The agreement came in an extension through 2029 of the terminal’s lease with the port authority. Under the agreement, truckers making pickups or deliveries at the terminal will be reimbursed for part of their bridge tolls.
The tolls, currently $12 per axle, or $60 for a five-axle truck and chassis, are scheduled to rise in phases to $18 per axle by 2015. The new program will effectively reduce the cost to $6 per axle. Tolls are charged only on Staten Island-bound trips.
Since the toll increases were announced, NYCT’s traffic has declined sharply. Devine said the terminal has handled 550,000 container lifts in 2008 but only 130,000 last year. NYCT has capacity to handle 670,000 lifts a year. This year's volume is expected to be above 200,000 lifts.
NYCT has gotten a recent boost in business as a result of ship diversions from Maher Terminals, which has been struggling with a new computer system, but the higher tolls have been an obstacle to attracting long-term business.
The port authority’s bridge toll credit program will provide reimbursement to trucking companies. E-Z Pass readers at NYCT will be matched against drivers’ E-Z Pass bridge toll payments. Credits for tolls then will be deposited to the trucking companies’ bank accounts. The program is scheduled to be fully implemented by the end of August.
The Empire State Development Corp. will fund part of the program with a $15 million grant spread over five years. Additional funding will come from the port authority credits against NYCT’s capital investments including berth, yard and equipment upgrades, and volume incentives in the terminal’s lease.
The funding commitment will cover up to 350,000 lifts a year. Any volumes above that total would be supported by the company.