Benedetto proposes toll rebate for TN, Whitestone, RFK bridges

Assemblyman Michael Benedetto and Councilman Mark Gjonaj at the Harding Avenue enterance for the Throgs Neck Bridge on Thursday, August 29.
Jewel Webber

As the era of congestion pricing for the city approaches, one Bronx assemblyman has proposed a plan that will ease the wallets of the boroughs’ travelers.

Assemblyman Michael R. Benedetto announced a toll rebate proposal for non-commercial travellers crossing the MTA-managed Throgs Neck, Bronx-Whitestone and RFK bridges on Thursday, June 29.

The proposed round-trip rebate would roll back the bridges’ current toll of $19 by mail or $12.24 by EZ Pass with an approximate 45% discount for all city residents.

“This could save commuters between $1,400 to $2,000 per year,” Benedetto said during his press conference just yards away from the Harding Avenue entrance for the Throgs Neck Bridge, adding that he is “seeking justice” on behalf of city commuters.

Benedetto said that his assembly district is in what he discribed as a ‘transportation desert.’ East Bronx residents have few transit options when it comes to crossing the East River to work, visit family and friends or take advantage of the many world-renown institutions and shopping opportunities on the other side of the river, he said.

“Bronx residents that work in Queens and Brooklyn have to spend $12 or more per day on a commute. That’s just not fair,” he said.

“This plan provides opportunities for commuters in communities like mine to receive a much-needed benefit,” he continued.

The assemblyman’s reduced price bridge toll proposal was originally suggested by traffic expert ‘Gridlock’ Sam Schwartz, who recommended the toll rebate for daily commuters in response to the state’s recently approved plan to initiate congestion-pricing in midtown Manhattan below 59th Street.

Schwartz said in a statement the congestion pricing plan finally addressed the tolling of all East River crossings, but it did not relieve the astronomical cost that the Throgs Neck, Bronx-Whitestone and RFK bridges are charging city residents.

A Traffic Mobility Review Board will be set up to analyze the specifics of the rebate and exactly how much of the congestive pricing generated toll money will be used to offset transportation costs in other parts of the city, according to Benedetto.

Standing alongside Benedetto in support of his colleague’s initiative was Councilman Mark Gjonaj.

He agreed that a rebate was the appropriate means of action in response to congestion pricing.

“Easing the quality of life for our residents is always our mission,” Gjonaj said. “Giving them a rebate on their commutes when other transportation options are limited is something I am most definitely in support of,” the councilman added.

While at the podium with Benedetto, Gjonaj addressed an additional Throgs Neck Bridge issue.

The Harding Avenue entrance for the Throgs Neck Bridge has become a severe source of congestion, especially when roadwork is being done on the bridge. Locust Point residents are often stuck behind a blocks long single line of cars, waiting to get on the bridge, delaying their trip home by up to a half hour.

“I am working with the NYC Department of Transportation to install a right turn lane at Harding Avenue,” Gjonaj explained.

A right turn lane from a dedicated lane on Harding Avenue at East 177th Street would provide Locust Point residents with the ability to forgo the traffic backup at the bridge entrance, he said.

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