Tolls on the Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge and four more spans across the Hudson will rise next month, a move officials at the New York State Bridge Authority say is necessary to pay for maintenance on the aging crossings. Starting at midnight on Jan. 30, tolls for the Kingston-Rhinecliff, Rip Van Winkle, Mid-Hudson, Newburgh-Beacon and Bear Mountain bridges will rise by 50 cents for cash customers and users of the E-Z Pass commuter discount program (currently cash customers pay $1 while users of the discount program pay 50 cents). Regular E-Z Pass users will see tolls rise by 25 cents to $1.25.
Bridge Authority spokesman John Bellucci said this week the toll increase, the first in 12 years, was approved by the agency’s board of directors based on recommendations contained in report on projected maintenance costs, which are expected to total half a billion dollars over the next 20 years. Those costs include $80 million needed in the next five years to re-deck the south span of the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge.
“Our bridges are in very good shape, they have no flags,” said Bellucci who added that 100 percent of the agency’s operating and capital budget is derived from tolls. “But to keep up that level of maintenance takes money and this was a necessary step.”
Bellucci said the same economic realities led the Authority to raise the price of the E-Z Pass commuter discount program. The popular 12-year-old program, which is only available with an E-Z Pass and grew out of the old ticket books for frequent bridge-crossers, was no longer sustainable since the 50-cent toll barely covered the cost of processing the fee.
“The commuter rate, quite frankly was not contributing to the cost to maintain the bridges,” said Bellucci. “It’s been great for the past 12 years, but we just can’t sustain that.”
The New York State Bridge Authority operates five bridges across the Hudson ranging in age from the Bear Mountain, built in 1923, to the north span of the Newburgh-Beacon, built in 1980. The authority is responsible for upkeep, toll collection and improvements to the bridges.