The American Automobile Association and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey met in a Manhattan federal court hearing Dec. 8 to present arguments in the trade group’s September lawsuit against the agency’s use of toll and transit fare hike revenue to fund development projects, such as the World Trade Center rebuild.
In its argument, AAA made reference to the authority’s changed stance in recent statements that indicate the agency would not use the revenue for non-transportation projects.
The Port Authority "shamelessly used 9/11 as part of the justification for the toll hike, and now it's made an about face,” says Robert Sinclair, a AAA spokesman.
A spokesperson for the Port Authority declined to comment on the hearing or the agency's prior public statements.
Fares on the Hudson River crossings went up in September from $8.00 to $9.50 for E-Z Pass users and up to $12.00 for cash users.
Both sides made their arguments in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan to Judge Richard J. Holwell, who will rule, says Sinclair.
AAA’s lawsuit claims that other uses of toll and fare hike revenue go against a 1989 court decision that says “toll revenue must be functionally related to transportation.”
The authority’s new position on toll hikes is “probably because [it] took the time to finally read the relevant legal precedents that we [AAA] cited in our suit,” says Sinclair, who also claims that the authority’s reverse position has angered drivers and elected officials.
The Port Authority’s total 10-year capital budget is $25 billion. About $10.7 billion of that is dedicated strictly to the authority’s Interstate Transportation Network, which includes tunnels, bridges, Port Authority Trans-Hudson (PATH) trains, and bus facilities, says an agency spokesman. The remainder will be used for upgrades to airports, seaports and the World Trade Center, he adds.
However, in a published report, the Port Authority says that its transportation facilities "will lose $51 million over the next ten years when upgrades and other related costs are included."