- Associated Press - Friday, November 18, 2016

NEW YORK (AP) - The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey properly imposed toll hikes at its bridges and tunnels in 2011, a federal court judge ruled Friday in a long-running case brought by AAA.

The motorist group had sued the agency that controls airports, seaports and several bridges and tunnels between New Jersey and New York, arguing it had wrongly used money collected from drivers to fund projects unrelated to transportation - or for repairs to state roads it didn’t control.

Among them was a controversial $1.8 billion in repairs to the Pulaski Skyway, a state-controlled bridge and causeway link between two New Jersey towns.

Lawyers warned five years ago that that expenditure by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie might cause legal problems, and it has subsequently been challenged not just by AAA, but by an airline, two federal agencies and local prosecutors in Manhattan.

But on Friday, Judge Richard Eaton agreed with Port Authority lawyers who argued the expenditure was appropriate since the skyway helped the flow of traffic to the authority-controlled Lincoln Tunnel, some eight miles away.

The AAA had challenged the Pulaski funding and other billion-dollar spending projects, but Eaton said in his decision that not only had the group raised concerns about them too late in the litigation but, “were the court to consider these arguments, however, they would not carry the day.”

A Port Authority spokesman declined comment. In court papers, its attorneys had argued the toll hikes were necessary since the agency’s costs exceeded its revenues.

A spokesman for AAA says officials are determining their next steps.

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