Press Releases

Rose Lays out Agenda to Address Commuting Nightmare, Calls for Infrastructure Investments

Supports two-way tolling on Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge to split fares in half and bring new revenue for local infrastructure, expansions of Staten Island and West Shore Expressways, and funding for North Shore Bus Rapid Transit and Staten Island Light Rail projects

Washington, March 26, 2019

Watch full testimony HERE.

Congressman Max Rose, who has made infrastructure and the nightmare commutes of his constituents a top priority, today called for infrastructure investments and laid out his agenda for improving commute times for Staten Islanders and South Brooklynites at an Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies hearing.

“Quite frankly my district—Staten Island and South Brooklyn—is dealing with a commuting nightmare, it’s dealing with overall a transportation nightmare,” said Rose in testimony before the funding committee. “We have some of the worst traffic in the country. Our commute averages 69 minutes per day. 69 minutes, can you honestly imagine that? Two hours spent less with your family, two hours spent less pursuing leisure. Our buses just never show up, and overall we have collapsing infrastructure. … My constituents would just love to have the opportunity to use public transportation, they just do not have it. Now, no one sent me here to complain, so we’re coming to you with some real options for things that we can do.”

In his remarks, Rose supported bringing two-way tolling to the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge—splitting the toll in half and having it paid in both directions—as a way to increase revenue for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and steer investments to buses and infrastructure on Staten Island and in South Brooklyn. Additionally, Rose pushed for federal assistance in expanding and improving the Staten Island and West Shore Expressways, and funding feasibility studies into the North Shore Bus Rapid Transit and Staten Island Light Rail projects.

Rose concluded his remarks, “Now, I’m aware that planning and implementing public transportation projects requires coordination between the federal government, and state and local agencies. More than anything, it requires that this Committee appropriates sufficient funding to making sure that the necessary resources are available, and are used effectively. Therefore, I ask the Committee Members to include in their report language prioritizing projects in regions with long commute times.”

In his time in Congress, Rose has made addressing the commuting nightmare a top priority and has partnered with elected officials at all levels of government to push for new and innovative ways to make a difference. Following the government shutdown, Rose joined colleagues in calling on leadership to prioritize a major investment in our nation’s infrastructure. Earlier this year, Rose and Assemblyman Michael Cusick called on the Governor to expedite a study on the creation of an additional lane of traffic or to extend the High Occupancy Vehicle lane on the Staten Island Expressway.

Additionally, Rose joined with City Councilman Justin Brannan, State Senator Andrew Gounardes, and State Assemblywoman Mathylde Frontus in calling on the MTA to split the R-Train between Brooklyn and Manhattan, as was done following Hurricane Sandy from 2013–2014. The MTA currently is not planning on any upgrades to the R-Train for more than a decade, and previous bifurcation of the R-Train resulted in more reliable and dependable commute times as commuters in South Brooklyn were no longer being impacted by delays in Queens or further up the line.

Full text of Rose’s testimony, as delivered:

Chairman Price, it’s good to see you. Thank you for your continued leadership. Ranking Member Diaz-Balart, I don’t believe I’ve actually formally met you, so nice to meet you and thank you for your leadership as well. Mr. Aguilar, you’re the man.

So I appreciate the opportunity to come here before you today, because quite frankly my district—Staten Island and South Brooklyn—is dealing with a commuting nightmare, it’s dealing with overall a transportation nightmare. We have some of the worst traffic in the country. Our commute averages 69 minutes per day. 69 minutes, can you honestly imagine that? Two hours spent less with your family, two hours spent less pursuing leisure.

Our buses just never show up, and overall we have collapsing infrastructure.

My district also leads New York City in terms of private car commuting as a consequence of our failed infrastructure on Staten Island and in South Brooklyn—whereas 22 percent of Manhattanites commute by car every day, on Staten Island it’s 68 percent. That’s just a massive economic burden as well.

My constituents would just love to have the opportunity to use public transportation, they just do not have it. Now, no one sent me here to complain, so we’re coming to you with some real options for things that we can do.

First is one-way tolling on the Verrazzano Bridge needs to be repealed. The Verrazzano is the only bridge in the nation whose tolling is controlled by federal mandate. This mandate was put in place 30 years ago, and the reasons for doing so have been addressed by modern technology—it’s about time federal law catches up.

Two-way tolling will generate millions of dollars in additional revenue for New York State’s MTA, which has a critical funding deficit. And this creates an opportunity for us to leverage two-way tolling into increased state and local investment, particularly in South Brooklyn and Staten Island—both of which are in need of additional buses.

If you all want to chip in and help to pay for the additional cameras for the EZ-Pass system that would be much appreciated, since we would have had those cameras had one-way tolling not been in place in the first place.

It is only poetic justice that we deal with this through this Committee because one-way tolling was originally imposed through a THUD Appropriations bill.

Next, my district desperately needs substantial improvements to our major highways, the Staten Island and West Shore Expressways. Tens of thousands of cars use these Expressways to get to work each day to get to work, from New Jersey into Brooklyn, and we can do this through critical programs like the Surface Transportation Block Grant.

Continued support for Capital Investment Grants is also critical for improving access to public transit. Thousands of my constituents, as I said, don’t have a public transportation option near their home—we need additional ferry services. Staten Island is an island, South Brooklyn right on the water as well. We are prime for so much ferry service to the rest of New York City, and even to New Jersey.

We also, though, have to look at some other options for bus rapid transit. We have a North Shore Bus Rapid Transit plan that’s going through an environmental review right now. Staten Island Light Rail projects as well, particularly on the West Shore as well as going into New Jersey. Studies show that these projects can halve commuting time, and we need this Committee’s assistance finishing the studies for these plans.

Now, I’m aware that planning and implementing public transportation projects requires coordination between the federal government, and state and local agencies. More than anything, it requires that this Committee appropriates sufficient funding to making sure that the necessary resources are available, and are used effectively.

Therefore, I ask the Committee Members to include in their report language prioritizing projects in regions with long commute times. I think America as a whole is going through a rising commuting nightmare, as more and more jobs concentrate in urban, city cores.

In my conversations with many Members of this Committee, I’ve been encouraged by your desire to effect real change in the way that America and Americans move around. We all came here to make people’s lives better, and I’ve shared with many of you the sentiment that there’s no better way to do that than to ensure people get to and from work quickly and reliably, and can spend more time at home with their families.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today, and I look forward to working with you all going forward.

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