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NY: MTA Demands NYC Marathon Pay 750k Congestion Pricing Toll for Using Verrazzano Bridge

Published: April 3, 2024
In this aerial view, runners compete as they cross over the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge during the 2023 TCS New York City Marathon on Nov. 05, 2023 in New York City. (Image: Craig T Fruchtman/Getty Images)

In order to compensate for lost congestion pricing revenue during the annual New York City Marathon, the MTA is demanding that Marathon organizers pay $750,000 for using the Verrazano Bridge, and if the organizers fail to pay the MTA is threatening to restrict use of the bridge during the iconic event, the New York Times is reporting.

According to internal memos seen by the NYTs, if New York Road Runners — the non-profit responsible for organizing the marathon —  doesn’t pay, the typical route taken by runners will be restricted, potentially reducing the number of runners who can compete. 

Officials with the MTA are saying that marathon organizers can choose to use either the upper or lower level of the bridge for the race —  but not both, the memos revealed. 

For the past 36 years, the marathon, which attracts tens of thousands of participants every year, has used both levels of the bridge to conduct the race. 

The New York Road Runners (NYRR) are refusing to pay the amount, and argue that if they are forced to use a different route it would likely result in longer street closures, negatively impacting more New Yorkers.

Catherine Sheridan, the president of MTA Bridges and Tunnels, is refusing to let up, saying in a statement, “New Yorkers love Marathon Sunday, but taxpayers cannot be expected to subsidize a wealthy nongovernment organization like the New York Road Runners to the tune of $750,000.”

“The MTA is prepared to continue working toward a final agreement with the NYRR, provided it leads, over time, to full reimbursement for the lost revenue.”


NYRR started paying in 2021

Charging the NYRR for use of the bridge is not without precedent. 

In 2021, the organization began paying some costs related to shuttering the bridge for the marathon. Last year the group paid over $150,000.

However, now that the highly controversial congestion pricing has been implemented the cost has ballooned by hundreds of thousands.

Staten Island President Vito Fossella blasted the MTA telling the NY Post on Wednesday that the authority can “find that money in nine hours.”

“It’s the wrong race to run,” he said.

“We lose $700 million a year to fare and toll evasion. They can find that money in nine hours if they enforce the law.”

This year, the 26.2 mile race is expected to attract upwards of 50,000 participants, countless observers and will generate millions of dollars worth of economic activity.

“The NY Marathon is [one] of the most iconic races in the world. I don’t know how many tens of millions of dollars in economic activity it brings to the city. We should be encouraging people to come to the city and spend money,” Fossella said, adding that, “Nothing surprises me anymore with the MTA.”


MTA playing hardball

Rob Simmelkjaer, CEO of the NYRR says his organization has already agreed to pay more than what has been typical in recent years but wants the MTA to cover some of the costs, however the MTA is playing hardball.

“We have agreed to increase payments to the MTA in the form of both direct payments and the purchase of advertising on subways and buses,” he wrote to Gov. Hochul in February, begging her to step in.

“The MTA has made a few concessions in these negotiations, however, and continues to insist on 100% reimbursement of lost toll revenue,” Simmelkjaer wrote. 

The NYRRs are not the only organization the MTA is going after. Bike New York is also facing demands to pay since it uses the bridge’s bottom level during its annual Five Boro Bike Tour every May.  

It is unclear how much Bike New York is being asked to pay, but the MTA said it would go as far as banning the group from using the bridge if it doesn’t pay up, the New York Times reported.