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

NEW YORK — Organizers of the New York City Marathon will soon have to pay tolls like every other commuter if New York transit officials have their way.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is requiring the New York Road Runners, organizers of the venerable race usually held on the first Sunday in November, to pay about $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 that would be lost when the nation’s longest suspension bridge is closed.

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

But the Road Runners have pushed back, arguing that the MTA enjoys more revenue from increased transit ridership during marathon week, which “more than offsets” lost toll revenue from the bridge. The Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge connects the boroughs of Brooklyn and Staten Island in New York City and is named after the first European explorer to enter 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 the MTA’s request would represent a material change in the cost structure and would require an increase in the amount runners pay to run the marathon, making it less affordable for local runners and those traveling from around the world New York City travel. both of which contribute hundreds of millions of dollars to the city and state economies,” 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 support their claim of $750,000 in lost revenue but has not received it.

The agency has also declined to share data on revenue generated by increased ridership during marathon week, despite Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office announcing after last year’s marathon that the MTA had a record number of subway riders on race day , said Howard.

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

The MTA has also threatened to limit the marathon to using only one of the two traffic decks if payment is not made, but the Road Runners have said such a move would significantly disrupt the race, the largest marathon in the world. and welcomes more than 50,000 participants annually.

The organization said it may have to reduce the number of runners or increase the total time of the marathon, forcing the bridge and other roads in the city to be closed for even longer on race day.

The MTA declined to respond to follow-up questions, but Sheridan said in her statement that the agency is also open to working with the organization on a compromise, provided it “results in full reimbursement of lost revenue over time.”