Tolls are set to increase on the Atlantic Beach Bridge beginning Jan. 1, after a “rigorous review,” the Nassau County Bridge Authority said earlier this week.
On Tuesday night, one Long Breach resident raised strong objections at a City Council meeting, and asked the council to speak with Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman about halting the increase.
In 2023, the cost of crossing the only bridge in Nassau County that has a toll will increase from $2 to $3. Later in the year, the cost for vehicles not registered in Nassau County will jump to $4.
The bridge authority also expects to implement electronic E-ZPass tolling.
In a news release on Dec. 1, the bridge authority said that “the new toll rate schedule was approved in 2022 after a rigorous review process, and there will be no further planned increases for the next five years.”
This will be the first toll increase for the bridge since Jan. 1, 2007. The authority said that its tolls would “remain among the lowest in the region, and deliver support for critical infrastructure improvements to the Atlantic Beach Bridge.”
The authority mentioned three projects in particular: the E-ZPass implementation and a toll plaza refurbishment, which it said would cost $5 million; the replacement of bulkheads in the East Rockaway Inlet, which will also cost $5 million; and bridge cleaning, painting and road work, which will cost $6 million.
Due to inflation, the tolls must increase to pay for these projects, the authority said.
Along with the increases for passenger vehicles, the cost for buses will increase from 50 cents to $3; commercial vans, from $4 to $8; and commercial trucks, from $8 to $16. Annual passes can still be purchased from the bridge authority, but once E-ZPasses is implemented, the passes will be managed through drivers’ E-ZPass accounts. They will cost $199 for Nassau County-registered cars, and $349 for those registered outside the county.
Long Beach city spokesman John McNally announced the plans at Tuesday’s council meeting, and addressed residents’ potential concerns.
“Everybody thought that once the decals went away, there was going to be no mechanism to pay for a yearly reduced rate,” he said. “It is not true. You can sign up with E-ZPass and still get the $199 yearly rate.”
Jack Ryan, the lone resident to speak on the increase, asked the council to ask Blakeman to halt the increases, and instead audit the bridge authority to find out “what they’re doing, who they are and why we’re paying more money.”
Ryan said he had researched the authority, but could not “figure out who they are.”
“I was told as a kid that when the bonds were paid off, the tolls would go away,” Ryan said. “So, what the bridge authority has done is, every time they’re close to paying the bonds, they go into debt again.”
He went on to question the authority’s statement that the bridge has the lowest tolls in the region. “They have the only tolls in Nassau,” he said.
The authority scheduled a meeting for elected officials, at its office at the bridge, on Thursday, after press time.