It’s rare that a significant problem gets overlooked in New York City, where every issue seems to have its own activist group, but for 21 years few people have said anything about the switch to one-way tolling on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.

Rammed into law by then-Rep. Guy Molinari, the ban on Brooklyn-bound Verrazano tolling was intended to alleviate traffic backups approaching the toll plaza. But as Sam Schwartz (aka Gridlock Sam) predicted, it transferred congestion to even worse places: downtown Brooklyn and lower Manhattan, as drivers went out of their way to take advantage of the lack of tolls.

Incredibly, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which owns the bridge, did not track and report the discrepancy in traffic in the free direction versus the tolled route. The agency merely counted vehicles who paid tolls and doubled them to estimate the total bridge traffic, as if one of the nation’s heftiest tolls made no difference to motorists.

But there might be a happy ending. With toll plazas on the Verrazano now a thing of the past (the toll is collected by an overhead reader from cars traveling at highway speed), Brooklyn Community Board 6 raised the idea of restoring two-way tolls. Rep. Daniel Donovan, who holds the seat that Molinari did, then endorsed a study that will spell out the benefits of doing so. The mere suggestion was a third rail in Staten Island politics until the Cuomo administration removed the toll plaza.

The happily unintended consequence could be fewer cars and trucks jamming up the Gowanus Expressway and Canal Street.

Source: Crain’s New York Business


Article by Michele Norton
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