Jack TenneyExtra Point

by Jack Tenney, Publisher

August 2015

So,” as my new muse, Janet Yellen, would say, while I was waiting for two boats to go through the opened drawbridge, I wondered if they had to pay a toll. As it was, I paid a toll to go over the bridge, but I couldn’t figure out how boaters could even pay a toll to go under it, even if they were required to pay a toll. Pretty easy to grab a toll from me — toll booth, toll gate, toll collector. Tolls paid debt service, bridge maintenance, collector payroll, and benefits and stuff.

Part of the answer is the fact that no one pays for using navigable waterways in the United States or, more accurately, income tax receipts pay for everything from channel dredging to draw bridges. Actually, some gas taxes can be used for the surface of the bridge that touches tires. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers takes care of water traffic needs from channel markers to beach restoration. Army, Pentagon, defense budget — all good.

A suggestion: Every boat gets a bar code attached to the highest part of the boat. Sailboats get two bar codes — one for the top of the mast and another for the top of the boat when the mast is stepped. The bridges are outfitted with readers and the vessels passing under bridges (draw or fixed) have their credit cards charged according to the height of the reader and the fare set by authorities legislated by Congress.

I would envision that the highest fees will be charged to kayaks, and the lowest to tankers in recognition of each group’s ability to fund a lobbying effort.

By the way, part-time toll collectors on the New York State Thruway are paid $12.48 per hour and are represented by a Teamster collective-bargaining team. Given the taxi-versus-Uber deal going on now, I see toll collectors trying to figure out a way to stage a protest as they are squeezed, booth by booth, by the E-Z pass holders who whiz bye-bye.

There already is a program where license plate readers record cars passing a toll gate without paying. The registered owner is sent a monthly bill and given a short time to settle (website, phone, even a mailed-in check) to avoid extra fees and points.

Here’s the extra point: Avoid a career in toll collecting or you will be outsourced to an e-reader and bill collector quicker than you can text your congressman on your iPhone.