Published: Friday, July 20, 2012, 1:00 AM by Tom Wrobleski
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. --- Staten Island officials who have slammed draconian toll hikes are applauding a new federal probe of toll increases on Port Authority of New York and New Jersey bridges and other spans in the region.
The federal Government Accountability Office said is it has begun investigating toll increases on bridges in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
GAO spokesman Ned Griffith said the agency is looking into whether bi-state transportation authorities are accountable.
The authorities, including the Port Authority, were created by compacts approved by Congress.
"There is no doubt that we pay too much to cross bridges we've already paid for," said state Sen. Andrew Lanza (R-Staten Island). "Anybody who suspects, as we do, that we pay too much in tolls and taxes, I'm with them. I welcome [the opposition]."
The Port Authority said it is cooperating with the probe, with spokesman Steve Coleman releasing a statement that read, "We have received the GAO inquiry and we will cooperate with it.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office had no further comment when contacted by the Advance last night, letting the Port Authority's statement stand.
"Any scrutiny as to how tolls are increased should be done," said Assemblyman Michael Cusick (D-Mid-Island). "People should know clearly how toll hikes are considered. It will be good for the people of Staten Island."
"Any light we can shed on the Port Authority, any type of transparency, is a good thing for the toll payers," said Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis (R-East Shore/Brooklyn).
Island lawmakers have slammed the Port Authority for hiking tolls on the Bayonne and Goethals bridges and the Outerbridge Crossing. Two shipping firms have pulled out of the New York Container Terminal (NYCT) in Mariners Harbor, in part because of higher tolls being paid by truckers doing business there.
While Lanza and Cusick were able to secure a critical toll discount for borough residents, there has been no word on whether truckers using the NYCT will get a break.
U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) called for the investigation.
-- Associated Press material was used in this report.