Bridges and tolls are on everyone’s mind these days, thanks to the MTA’s latest proposed fare hikes. If approved, this would raise the toll of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge to $16. And today, on the 50th anniversary of the bridge’s opening, most Staten Islanders still think that driving across the bridge was supposed to become free once it was paid off. No one’s really certain where this myth came from, but those who believe it are quite passionate about the subject.
When the Verrazano Bridge opened in 1964, it transformed sleepy, rural Staten Island into a bustling urban community. And it cost just 50 cents to cross. Now, Staten Island residents are boycotting the city’s celebration of its anniversary, protesting the misuse of the tolls. According to the Staten Island Advance, Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis publicly stated: “For decades, revenue from the Verrazano Bridge has been misused, subsidizing other parts of the MTA’s service territory while Staten Island received crumbs. The necessary investment in infrastructure and transportation options have not been made and in 2014 we are still fighting for basic transit options like North and West Shore links.”
Some may argue that the boycott of the celebration stems from the deeply-rooted belief throughout the borough that there was never supposed to be a toll at all. A few years ago, the transit authority went through its records, but found nothing about the toll disappearing once the bridge was paid off. Similarly, in 2009 the Staten Island Advance dug through its archives and also came up short.
Via michoch via photopin cc
But Staten Islanders do get a discount on the toll. In 1983, Governor Mario Cuomo signed a law into effect that lowered the toll for residents to $1 each way instead of $1.25. This year, Governor Andrew Cuomo enacted a similar reduction, lowering the toll in the westbound lanes to $5.50 for Staten Island residents with an E-ZPass, down from $6. This brings up another debate, though, as no such discount exists on the Brooklyn side of the bridge in Bay Ridge, which was devastated by Hurricane Sandy.
Whether you believe the myth or not, it’s pretty certain that the Verrazano toll is not going anywhere.
[Via New York Times]