A report commissioned by the Hudson Square Connection has shown that a two-way toll on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge would drastically reduce traffic congestion in Lower Manhattan. “Gridlock” Sam Schwartz Engineering’s report revealed that up to 137 vehicles per hour could be removed from westbound Canal, Watts and Houston Streets with a two-way bridge toll.

These corridors are where vehicles head westbound toward the Holland Tunnel. With Staten Island-bound traffic on the Verrazano being tolled – but not Manhattan-bound traffic – Schwartz estimates that 70% of westbound trips to New Jersey take the route through Manhattan instead of the I-278 route through Staten Island.

The engineering firm studied several scenarios of congestion reduction on westbound Canal, Watts and Houston Streets, including a two-way toll on the bridge; two different congestion-pricing plans known as MoveNY and Fix NYC; and a two-way toll and congestion-pricing plan combined. MoveNY is a congestion-pricing plan developed by Schwartz along with a coalition of various stakeholders. Fix NYC is a proposal by a task force of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s built upon the earlier, grassroots MoveNY plan.

A two-way toll and MoveNY combination would reduce up to 337 vehicles per hour along the three critical streets – the greatest volume reduction of all the scenarios. The length of the lines of cars backed up on the streets would be cut by up to 1,100 feet between westbound Canal, Watts and Houston Streets with the two-way toll. But the combo of two-way bridge tolling and MoveNY would shorten the lines of traffic by up to 2,700 feet between the three streets.

The lack of a dual-direction bridge toll may have mitigated backups at the Staten Island toll plaza, but the change also created a free route to New Jersey across Manhattan’s East River bridges, through Downtown and on through the Holland Tunnel. After the toll change, traffic swamped the neighborhood. Preliminary studies shortly after the two-way toll was scrapped in 1986 revealed added congestion on Canal Street and an increase of 4,000 vehicles per day through the Holland Tunnel, The New York Times reported at the time. Traffic also worsened on the Brooklyn side of the Verrazano while decreasing on the Staten Island side.

Councilmembers Margaret Chin, who represents Lower Manhattan, and Justin Brannan, who represents Bay Ridge, are calling on the federal government to reinstate the two-way toll, as well. In late June, the two announced a resolution requesting that Congress pass and the president sign legislation to allow two-way tolling on the bridge.

Their resolution says the “inefficient routes cost the MTA much-needed toll revenue that could be used to support the region’s mass transit system and has been blamed for exacerbating congestion problems in areas such as Canal St. in Lower Manhattan.”

Source: The Villager

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