Motor carriers serving New York Container Terminal on Staten Island have begun receiving payments to offset increases in tolls on bridges from New Jersey.
After testing earlier this month, the first regular reimbursements were direct-deposited into motor carriers’ bank accounts this week, said Jim Devine, chief executive of GCT USA, which operates NYCT along with Global Terminal in Bayonne, N.J.
The toll credit halves the current $12-per-axle toll for trucks using the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s bridges to Staten Island. The credits will keep the cost at $6 per axle for trucks serving NYCT even as tolls are ratcheted up to $18 per axle by 2015.
“It’s going to put us back in the game and make us very competitive in the harbor,” Devine said. NYCT’s business declined sharply after the port authority’s 2011 announcement of a multiyear series of toll increases.
“If we had not gotten the tolls fixed, this terminal would not have been able to survive,” he said. “It would have taken capacity for more than 600,000 annual lifts out of the harbor. Nobody wants to see that.”
Devine praised New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo for supporting the toll credits. “The governor said he recognized the need to protect this terminal’s viability, and he’s worked through the port authority to achieve that,” Devine said.
Under the toll credit program, trucks’ tolls and terminal usage are tracked by EZ Pass readers at bridges and at NYCT. When there’s a match, the program triggers a credit that will be deposited weekly to a motor carrier’s bank account.
Devine said the process “is electronic and automatic. The trucker doesn’t need to do anything. They’ll get a printout showing how much their credit is, and the transactions on which it’s based.”
Devine said he’s confident that even with the remaining toll, NYCT will be able to compete on service. He said the terminal offers quick turnaround for ships, has a customs examination station next door, and makes trucker service a priority. The Association of Bi-State Motor Carrier has named NYCT the port’s best terminal in nine of the last seven years.
NYCT used its own funds to reimburse truckers for bridge tolls until 2005, when the expense became too much. “The cost was coming out of our hide,” Devine said. “There’s just not enough profit in the business for us to be able to do that.”
The new toll credits will be funded partly by a $15 million grant from the Empire State Development Corp. Additional funding will come from the port authority credits against NYCT’s capital investments and volume incentives in the terminal’s lease.
The toll credit program came in an extension through 2029 of the terminal’s lease with the port authority. Staten Island officials have complained that the credits don’t go far enough. They’re set to be phased out after NYCT reaches 350,000 container lifts per year.
Devine said the new program is a good start and that he’s hopeful there eventually will be “further enhancements.”