Jersey City - Today, The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey held public hearings to hear from New Jersey residents and commuters on how their proposed toll and fare hikes would affect them. U.S. Senator Robert Menendez sent a statement that was read at the hearing in Jersey City this morning, expressing his concern about how a 50% toll increase and a $1 fare increase would hurt working families and businesses. Senator Menendez's statement follows:

"I believe New Jersey working families, small businesses, and the many that are unemployed and looking for work, are struggling enough. The last thing they need, in the face of difficult economic times and rising fuel costs, are toll and fare increases that make it that much more difficult for them to find work, get to work, or travel at all.

"First, I call on Governor Christie to veto this proposal and have the Port Authority come back with more reasonable options. Second, I respectfully request that the Port Authority open its books and conduct a full and thorough audit to show us exactly why such prohibitive increases are necessary at this time. New Jerseyans are already suffering through a 25 percent NJ Transit fare increase and will soon have to endure a second toll increase on the Turnpike and the Parkway.

"To put these increases in perspective, the GW Bridge is less than a mile long, and yet one would have to pay $15 cash to cross it - if the Turnpike had the same toll per mile it would cost over $2000 to travel through New Jersey! This is simply an unacceptable increase. It is unfair to hard-working middle class families, to those looking for work, and to every New Jerseyan. Unemployment in New Jersey stands at 9.5 percent, so we should make sure toll and fare increases are absolutely necessary before we burden people with them.

"That is why I believe the Governor should veto this proposal. I appreciate the Port Authority's desire for more revenues in order to reinvest in infrastructure projects for the region. But to propose such an incredible increase is unreasonable.

"I also believe the Port Authority should undergo a full, independently monitored audit. Such an audit should be able to answer the following questions in detail:

  • How did the Authority suddenly find itself in such a financial hole?
  • What exact costs or dips in revenue could not have been anticipated earlier?
  • What efforts has the Port Authority undertaken to reduce costs?
  • What is the breakdown of spending between the two states? Traditionally it is supposed to be 50/50. Is that still the case?
  • What other fees or sources of revenue has the Port Authority pursued?

"Lastly, I believe that the audit should detail exactly where this money is going. I do not think anyone questions the fact that these toll and fare increases will disproportionately affect New Jersey commuters. Are these additional revenues going to be used to disproportionately help New Jersey or will they be used mainly to finish the enormous Port Authority construction projects in New York?

"Again, let me thank the Port Authority in advance for taking these recommendations into consideration before adding any additional financial burden to those New Jerseyans who can least afford toll and fare increases at a time when so many are looking for work and struggling to make ends meet.

"Thank you again for holding this hearing."