The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is aggressively going after uncollected toll revenue, filing 14 civil suits on Tuesday against what it calls the most egregious toll violators.
Thirty-six companies and individuals owing more than $50,000 each in tolls and fees are listed on the “Wall of Shame” on the authority’s website. The top violator is EAN Holdings LLC/Enterprise, which owes $166,000 in tolls and $1.7 million in fees.
Tuesday’s filings bring the number of civil suits to 33 since the agency launched its Wall of Shame program on Feb. 17.
Pat Foye, who became executive director on Nov. 1, calls the action a demonstration of new leadership and a new way of doing business.
“The Port Authority promised to take a hard line against those who are cheating the system, and filing these new lawsuits is further proof that we intend to live up to our word,” Foye said.
After a harsh audit from Navigant Consulting Inc. earlier this year, the Port Authority has been under pressure to improve performance.
Foye called the audit a critical step in the agency’s reform and has already asked staff to reduce pre-construction planning costs by up to 25% in order to move more quickly on its projects
The audit has also prompted scrutiny from the New York and New Jersey Senates and, most recently, the New Jersey General Assembly.
Last week the assembly voted 43 to 30, with two abstentions, to grant its transportation committee subpoena power to “investigate all aspects of the finances” of the Port Authority.
Aspects include the recently proposed 10-year capital plan, the allocation of the revenue from the toll increase plan, and compensation paid to officers and employees of the agency.
The chief advocate, Assemblyman John Wisniewski, chairs the Transportation, Public Works and Independent Authorities Committee, and is also head of the state Democratic Party. He said the step was made necessary by the authority’s “sheer hubris and failure to respond to basic questions about its operations.”
The General Assembly did not specify whether it plans to subpoena the Port Authority in the near future.
The action came after the New York State Senate last week passed legislation to impose requirements on the authority, including regular audits and public hearings.
Laws governing the bi-state agency do not take effect until both New York and New Jersey enact substantively identical legislation.
Lawmakers from both states will hold a special joint hearing in Staten Island to discuss the agency’s operations on April 20.
Moody’s Investors Service rates the Port Authority’s bonds Aa2 with a negative outlook. Standard & Poor’s and Fitch Ratings each assign a AA-minus and a stable outlook.