Rockaway residents roving across the Cross Bay Bridge will now be reimbursed for their travels from April 1 and on, according to the MTA.
The Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge Residency Rebate Program recently passed the state budget, said Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder. But while the discount program was expected to go into immediate effect once the budget was signed at the end of March, residents were told they may not see benefits until July 1 at the latest.
An MTA spokesperson said the money first has to be transferred from the state to the MTA before it goes from the MTA to Bridges and Tunnels, and all E-Z Pass tags have to be reprogrammed, which the representative said may take a couple of months in total.
Now — after persistent urging by Goldfeder and local leaders, including a petition containing 2,000 signatures in support of the toll’s elimination — the MTA said customers will receive credit for tolls incurred on the bridge retroactive to April 1 until back office operations are completed. According to the MTA, the rebate program will be fully operational by mid-summer, but residents will not be responsible for fees acquired right away.
“In this economy, every dollar counts,” Goldfeder said. “Hardworking families should not be burdened with this unfair fee for one day longer than they have to and now we will finally get the relief we so desperately need and deserve.”
The rebate plan is only valid at the Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge for passenger vehicles using an E-ZPass, who are enrolled in the Rockaway Resident Program and who live in zip codes 11691, 11692, 11693, 11694, 11695 and 11697. It does not apply to commercial trucks, motorcycles, taxis, buses or limousines, according to the MTA.
With an E-Z Pass, Rockaway residents currently pay $1.19 each time they drive along the Cross Bay Bridge for up to two trips a day. While additional crossings are free afterwards, local elected officials and residents have long deemed the toll a problem.
The toll — the only intra-borough one in the city — was free for residents of Broad Channel and the Rockaways for 12 years, but was reinstated by the MTA in 2010.
The rebate, local leaders said, would stimulate more activity and revenue between Rockaway and Broad Channel businesses, while saving residents between $800 and $1,500 a year.
“There was never a good reason to impose this financial hardship on residents of our borough who travel from their homes on the peninsula to anywhere else in Queens, sometimes several times a day,” said Senator Joseph Addabbo. “It was long perceived by resident drivers and affected small businesses as a ‘fine’ for living on the peninsula.”