The Cross Bay Bridge rebate program, which saves Rockaway and Broad Channel residents millions of dollars every year, is in jeopardy of being axed as the MTA tries to fill a nearly $400 million hole in its budget.
The program allows E-ZPass holders in those communities to essentially cross the bridge for free.
"We'll block the bridge and get arrested again," vowed Democratic District Leader Lew Simon, who has been active in the fight to remove the toll for more than two decades. "We plan on busing people to the hearings."
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority board approved a 2010 budget yesterday that would also reduce train and bus services and potentially eliminate free student MetroCards. Before the cuts can be implemented public hearings must be held and another vote taken.
The bridge produced $12.2 million in toll revenues, MTA spokeswoman Judie Glave told the Daily News earlier this year. The MTA spent $3.6 million on the program in 2008, she added.
Locals with E-ZPass are charged a $1.13 toll every time they cross the bridge. That money is then remitted to them in the form of a rebate.
Broad Channel residents, who live in zip code 11693, have to take the bridge to pick up a package at the local post office.
Members of Community Board 14 must also cross the bridge to attend local meetings.
"This is the only place in the country where you have to pay to see your neighbor," said Broad Channel activist Eddie O'Hare.
"The battle should be to eliminate the toll altogether," said Community Board 14 District Manager Jonathan Gaska. "This won't help businesses and it'll increase the traffic problems."
The rebate program was on the chopping block earlier this year, but was saved during last-minute negotiations between the MTA and state officials.
"I thought I was going to fall off my chair when I heard about this again," Pheffer said yesterday.