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AAA sues Port Authority over New York City toll hikes

By Leigh Remizowski, CNN
updated 7:40 PM EDT, Tue September 27, 2011
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Complaint says tolls are not "just and reasonable"
  • Lawsuit also says drivers are paying for rebuilding of World Trade Center
  • Port Authority says suit is "without merit"

New York (CNN) -- The American Automobile Association is suing the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey over toll increases that recently went into effect at New York City bridges.

AAA of New York and North Jersey filed a complaint in federal court in Manhattan Tuesday, alleging that toll hikes that began on September 18 breach a federal law that requires interstate tolls be set at "just and reasonable" rates, according to a statement released by the agency.

"Clearly, drivers are already paying more than their fair share -- and they are doing so at a time when federal, state and local authorities are hard pressed to meet routine road and bridge maintenance needs," said Marta Genovese, AAA New York's vice president and counsel in a statement.

The lawsuit seeks to stop the toll increases, which affect commuters using the Lincoln and Holland tunnels, the George Washington, Bayonne and Goethals bridges, as well as the Outerbridge Crossing.

Port Authority officials responded to the lawsuit in a statement, saying the complaint "is without merit."

The lawsuit alleges that commuters are footing the bill for the rebuilding of the World Trade Center site, according to AAA's statement.

"The Authority is attempting to burden commuters and travelers with public expenditures that are in no way related to transportation," Genovese said in the statement.

A Port Authority press release from August attributes the toll increases to "multiple unprecedented challenges," including declining revenues, increased security costs in the wake of September 11 as well as the cost of the World Trade Center rebuilding project.

Drivers crossing into Manhattan must now pay $12. E-ZPass holders pay $7.50 during off-peak hours and $9.50 during peak hours. E-ZPass tolls increased $1.50, and all other cars were subject to a $3 uptick.

The tolls will continue to increase every December for four years.

The AAA suit comes in the wake of another lawsuit aimed at the Port Authority's newly implemented tolls -- this one by New Jersey resident Yoel Weisshaus.

Weisshaus, whose income falls below poverty level, filed a civil complaint with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York last week alleging that the toll hikes constitute an abuse of power that violate his rights by unfairly targeting poor commuters.

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