Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.) said he was “troubled” by Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Deputy Executive Director Bill Baroni’s refusal to answer questions at an April 18 hearing on tolling accountability.
The hearing is part of the Commerce Subcommittee on Surface Transportation’s work on a bill to restore the Department of Transportation’s ability to determine fairness of toll hikes and to give the DOT authority to prescribe more reasonable tolls.
Jay said Baroni displayed “inappropriate discourse and decorum” when questioned by the subcommittee’s chairman, Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J).
Lautenberg is sponsoring the bill. The legislation was prompted by the Authority’s approval last August of toll hikes that included raising the $40 fee for 5-axle trucks to cross the bridge between the two states to $105 by 2015.
Baroni refused to disclose when New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie knew about the toll hikes, but Lautenberg failed to illicit more information. “You have a responsibility to comment, my friend, whether you like it or not,” Lautenberg said.
AAA’s Chris Plaushin’s testimony was critical of E-ZPass, which he said accounts for almost 40 percent of all U.S. toll transactions and nearly 70 percent of all U.S. toll revenue.
“Tolling agencies that utilize E-ZPass technology and are members of the E-ZPass Interagency Group have recently engaged in a harmful, discriminatory practice of charging drivers who purchase their transponders out-of-state a higher rate than those who purchase their technology in-state,” Plaushin said.