With promise of audit, Christie accepts Hudson River toll hikes

Tolls are going up to use the tunnels, bridges and trains crossing the Hudson River between New Jersey and New York. Starting next month, drivers will have to pay $1.50 more, while PATH train riders must fork over an extra 25 cents following the increase approved by the Port Authority.

N.J. Gov. Chris Christie agreed not to veto the plan on the condition that there be an audit of the Port Authority’s finances and management. He says any savings that result from that audit won’t preclude the 75-cent a year additional toll between 2012 and 2015, but would be used for infrastructure improvements.

“Maybe what it comes down to is that if money is being misspent in other places or priorities have now become different than that, maybe we’ll be able to invest that in different areas that will get a greater yield for the economic growth of this region,” Christie said.

Without the higher tolls, Christie said the Port Authority would not have the finances to proceed with building the World Trade Center and repairing the George Washington Bridge.

He called the toll hike a user fee, insisting it is not a tax increase.

“The people who use the tunnel pay the fee. The people who use the bridge pay the fee. The people who use the Path train pay the fee,” said the governor. “It is a user fee. It is not a tax. I know what a tax is and what it looks it.”

Christie also had a few words for his critics.

“They criticize me for not investing enough in infrastructure, and then when I authorize a toll increase to be able to invest in infrastructure they criticize me for the toll increase,” he said. “You know how you describe those people? They way you describe these people are know- nothings and do-nothings”

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