NYC Marathon Faces $750,000 Bridge Toll, Safety Risking Iconic Route

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In a twist of financial tug-of-war, the organizers of the cornerstone New York City Marathon—an annual November event coordinated by the New York Road Runners (NYRR)—are having to navigate more than the physical bridges of the city. As it turns out, they may soon find themselves shouldering the cost of a bridge toll that, up until now, has been waived to facilitate the race course. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), which oversees the labyrinth of transit routes, bridges, and tunnels that crisscross the city that never sleeps, is proposing to change that.

If the MTA’s proposal gets its way, the NYRR would be required to fork over a whopping $750,000 for utilizing the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge, an iconic part of the marathon’s route that connects the bustling boroughs of Brooklyn and Staten Island. This monetary demand, the MTA argues, reflects the toll revenue that evaporates into thin air when the nation’s longest suspension bridge closes for the race.

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“Certainly, New Yorkers do have a soft spot for Marathon Sunday,” admitted Catherine Sheridan, president of MTA’s department of bridges and tunnels, “but the taxpayers cannot continue to effectively foot the bill for a sophisticated non-government entity like the New York Road Runners to the sum of $750,000.”

The Road Runners, however, are not taking the MTA’s demands lying down. They stress that the footfall registered on transit during the marathon week reels in increased revenue, which successfully neutralizes any perceived loss from the bridge’s closure. Crystal Howard, speaking on behalf of NYRR, made it clear that the organization has challenged these figures, seeking evidence from the MTA but hit a brick wall – no data was provided.

“In fact,” Howard pointed out, “the 2019 marathon alone pumped in an estimated $427 million into the city’s coffers based on an economic impact report we commissioned in 2020.” According to NYRR, an economic juggernaut of this magnitude elevates tourism, beefs up tax revenues, and creates a much-needed nudge for the city’s economy.

So, what does this mean for the runners? The proposed toll could alter the cost structure of the marathon, balloon the fee for the runners – both local and international – making it less financially accessible. In addition, it might essentially force the NYRR to rethink the marathon content by either reducing the number of runners or expanding the marathon’s duration—a move that brings with it its own set of complications. If the MTA were to restrict the race to one deck of the bridge—thereby increasing the duration—the city’s streets would be gridlocked for even longer.

The MTA, while declining further comment, have voiced that they are open to compromise, provided this would lead to a gradual reimbursement of the “lost revenue”. The Road Runners are open to compromise too, but any viable resolution should reflect the considerable value derived from the marathon. After all, this race has been a symbol of resilience and the city’s sporting spirit since 1976.

The stakes are high, and both parties are keeping their cards close to their chests. The resolution hangs in the balance, alongside the fate of world’s largest marathon and its 50,000 annual runners from across the globe. One thing is clear, however: the New York City Marathon may have yet another hurdle to clear in the coming year, and it’s not a physical one.

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Melinda Cochrane is a poet, teacher and fiction author. She is also the editor and publisher of The Inspired Heart, a collection of international writers. Melinda also runs a publishing company, Melinda Cochrane International books for aspiring writers, based out Montreal, Quebec. Her publication credits include: The art of poetic inquiry, (Backalong Books), a novella, Desperate Freedom, (Brian Wrixon Books Canada), and 2 collections of poetry; The Man Who Stole Father’s Boat, (Backalong Books), and She’s an Island Poet, Desperate Freedom was on the bestseller's list for one week, and The Man Who Stole Father’s Boat is one of hope and encouragement for all those living in the social welfare system. She’s been published in online magazines such as, (regular writer for) ‘Life as a Human’, and Shannon Grissom’s magazine.