After Toll Hike, Christie Promises to Get Tough on Port Authority

By: - January 11, 2012 12:00 am

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has been embroiled in plenty of controversy lately. First, it set off a public outcry over the summer by raising tolls and fares to get into New York City. Now, it is defending against a lawsuit brought by former employees who say the authority reneged on its promise to let them ride and drive for free on its many facilities.

So perhaps it is no surprise that Chris Christie, the outspoken New Jersey governor, has announced plans to make some changes at the massive agency, which controls the area’s ports, bridges, airports, a commuter line and the World Trade Center.

“I think you’re going to see (New York Governor) Andrew Cuomo and I get our arms around this agency now,” Christie said in an interview with The (Bergen County) Record . “You have two strong, assertive governors on both sides of the river who have a good relationship.”

The two governors both objected to the Port Authority’s initial plan to raise tolls and fares in late summer. But the Port Authority went ahead with a slimmed-down plan that still has motorists steaming. For car drivers paying cash, the cost of entering New York City on one of the Port Authority’s bridges or tunnels will go from before the hike to when it is fully implemented.

In the last month, the Republican Christie tried to pin responsibility for the toll hikes on his Democratic predecessor, Jon Corzine. Christie, like Cuomo, had the power to veto the hikes but let them go through instead.

“This is, I hope, one of the last vestiges of the Jon Corzine years,” Christie said during a radio interview . “There’s no way for us to roll these back because the state and Jon Corzine sold bonds to bondholders and promised the bondholders that the money, the increase in the tolls, would be there to pay their bonds and if we rolled it back we’d be violating the bond conveyance.”

Christie engineered the move of his former attorney general, Paula Dow, to a top spot at the Port Authority, at least until she can be confirmed as a judge in New Jersey. The controversial appointment  gives Christie a key ally in the transportation agency. The Port Authority also recently hired a new executive director. “I don’t have any excuses anymore,” told the Record . “It’s my time to get my arms around this agency now.”

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