The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey approved fare and toll increases on its bridges, tunnels, and commuter rail line Friday. The board also approved a method for raising future fares and tolls based on increases in the regional consumer price index. “The idea would be once the CPI reaches a dollar increase, [fares and tolls] would go up a dollar,” said Port Authority spokesman Marc LaVorgna. While the new increases would still require board approval, the Port Authority would not have to go through a public hearing process to increase fares and tolls, and increases would be more steady rather than having long periods without increases followed by large jumps, he said. The increase was the authority’s first in seven years and came after seven public hearings. “The idea is to get away from this dramatic process,” LaVorgna said. The authority said the increase was necessary to fund its $29.5 billion 2007-2016 capital program. The fare increase was originally supposed to generate an additional $325 million annually but LaVorgna said the reduced increases will generate about $15 million or less annually. The authority’s 10-year capital plan includes an additional $3 billion passenger rail tunnel under the Hudson River between New York and New Jersey, $3.3 billion to overhaul and modernize its commuter rail system, $8.4 billion for construction at the World Trade Center site, and $4 billion to maintain its bridges and tunnels in a state of good repair. The Port Authority also announced Friday it had agreed to jointly develop and operate 488,000 square feet of retail at the World Trade Center with the Westfield Group. The Port Authority will provide the majority of the funding, $825 million out of $1.45 billion and Westfield will provide the remainder.
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