If New York City's East River bridges were on a Monopoly board, the Queensboro, Williamsburg, Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges would be akin to landing on "Free Parking," because they are not tolled crossings.
That is "just insane," says Samuel Schwartz, a former NYC deputy transportation commissioner also known as "Gridlock Sam." Since major highways lead to the East River's toll crossings, scores of drivers—including truckers—transition to city streets to get to the free bridges. The Queensboro is a popular choice, as about 50,000 cars and trucks a year use it to avoid the tolls, exacerbating problems in the area like gridlock, pollution and safety concerns, he says. Also, with hefty tolls on four Staten Island bridges, "one would think Staten Island is the city's central business district," says Schwartz, who is also president and CEO of the eponymous New York-based engineering firm.
But Schwartz has a plan to change the city's toll-collection formula. It includes imposing $5 tolls each way on the currently free East River bridges and lowering tolls by $5 each way on the Throgs Neck, Whitestone, Robert F. Kennedy and Verrazano-Narrows bridges. Round-trip tolls on the two Rockaway, Queens, bridges would also be lowered by $2 under the plan.
Annually, the plan would yield $1.4 billion in net revenue, two-thirds of which would go for transit and one-third for roads and bridges, Schwartz says.
Schwartz has been shopping the idea around town for the last 18 months to gather support from elected officials, labor groups and others.
He says that with support from the "titans of industry" the plan would stand a chance in Albany, where congestion-pricing schemes have failed several times.
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PLA Planned For Tappan Zee Bridge Work
The New York State Thruway Authority and 14 labor groups have given the nod to a project labor agreement (PLA) for the Tappan Zee Bridge replacement project, Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office recently announced. The PLA, which is expected to save taxpayers about $452 million and provide thousands of construction jobs, will be a required provision of the RFP for the new bridge project. The agreement is subject to final approval from the Federal Highway Administration and the Thruway Authority board of directors.
The plan includes employment opportunities for union members in the Hudson Valley and New York Metropolitan region, and it acts as a mechanism to settle jurisdictional disputes through an organized grievance process. The plan also stipulates that lock-out or other work disruptions, including renegotiations of area collective bargaining agreements, is not permitted.
Key provisions of the plan include a standardized 40-hour, straight-time work week; a higher ratio of apprentices to journeymen than typically allowed in collective bargaining agreements; $25 a day, instead of an hour of overtime, for workers arriving one hour prior to their shifts; and standardized holidays that eliminate overtime for service trades.
Perth Amboy Agrees to Upgrade Sewer System