Sports

Transportation officials want NYC Marathon organizers to pay $750K to cross the Verrazzano bridge

NEW YORK — (AP) — The New York City Marathon organizers will soon have to pay a bridge toll, just like every other commuter, if New York transit officials have their way.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is demanding the New York Road Runners, organizers of the venerable race generally held the first Sunday of each November, pay roughly $750,000 for use of the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge.

The agency that oversees New York's bridges and tunnels says the fee represents the estimated amount of toll revenue lost when the nation's longest suspension bridge is closed.

“New Yorkers love Marathon Sunday, but taxpayers cannot be expected to subsidize a wealthy non-government organization like the New York Road Runners to the tune of $750,000,” said Catherine Sheridan, president of MTA’s department of bridges and tunnels, in a statement.

But the Road Runners have pushed back, arguing the MTA enjoys increased revenue from greater transit ridership during marathon week that “more than makes up” for any lost toll revenue from the bridge. The Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge connects the New York City boroughs of Brooklyn and Staten Island, and is named after the first European explorer to sail into the New York Harbor.

The organization also noted that the 2019 marathon generated an estimated $427 million for the city, significantly boosting tourism, tax revenues and the economy, according to an economic impact report it commissioned in 2020.

“The impact of MTA’s request would represent a material change to the cost structure and would require an increase to how much runners pay to run the Marathon, making it less affordable for local runners and those who travel to New York City from around the world—both of whom contribute hundreds of millions of dollars to the City’s and State’s economy,” Crystal Howard, a spokesperson for the organization, said in an emailed statement.

She said the organization has repeatedly asked the MTA to provide data to back up their claim of $750,000 in lost revenue loss but have not received it.

The agency has also declined to share data regarding the revenue generated by the increased ridership during marathon week, despite Gov. Kathy Hochul's office announcing after last year's marathon that the MTA enjoyed "record subway ridership" on race day, Howard said.

The Road Runners, she added, are willing to negotiate with transit officials, but any resolution should reflect the “significant value” the agency derives from the marathon, which the organization says has been run over the bridge since 1976.

The MTA has also threatened to restrict the marathon to using just one of its two decks of traffic if it doesn't pay up, but the Road Runners have said such a move would significantly hinder the race, which is the largest marathon in the world, welcoming more than 50,000 participants annually.

The organization said it might have to either decrease the field of runners or extend the total time of the marathon, forcing the bridge and other roadways in the city to be closed even longer on race day.

The MTA declined to respond to follow up questions, but Sheridan, in her statement, said the agency is similarly open to working with the organization on a compromise, provided it "leads, over time, to full reimbursement for the lost revenue.”

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