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Will New York City’s Congestion Pricing Start in 2022?

The program, which will toll vehicles entering Manhattan’s central business district, has been in limbo since the Trump administration refused to OK the review process. It is expected to raise $1 billion in revenue annually.

(TNS) — Congestion pricing can't come soon enough for Mayor Bill de Blasio.

On Thursday, the mayor recommended Department of Finance Commissioner Sherif Soliman to the Traffic Mobility Review Board, a six-member panel that will offer recommendations on toll amounts, exemptions and other program details.

"Sherif Soliman has the vision and expertise to get the Traffic Mobility Review Board moving and deliver a congestion pricing plan that works for everyone," de Blasio said.

In addition to announcing his recommendation, the mayor called on the MTA to expedite the program's implementation process, with hopes of having "shovels in the ground" by next summer and full implementation of the program by sometime in 2022.

"The MTA should meet its obligation to convene experts like Sherif on this board and kick this process into overdrive. Congestion pricing will ease traffic and fund mass transit, and New Yorkers can't wait any longer to get it started," said de Blasio.

"Like the Governor and other leaders who got it passed, we believe the Central Business District Tolling Program will be a huge environmental benefit for the region while also providing a major boost to mass transit — and we're working hard to implement it as soon as possible. But it's important to remember the project was delayed 20 months by the previous federal administration," said Ken Lovett, senior advisor to the MTA chairman and CEO.

The MTA's congestion pricing program, which was initially expected to start on Jan. 1, 2021, had previously been in limbo due to the former presidential administration's repeated refusal to provide clear direction on the necessary environmental review process.

The Central Business District Tolling Program (CBDTP) — expected to reduce congestion on busy Manhattan streets while generating billions in revenue to dedicate toward mass transit improvements — requires federal approval due to some roads within the program's limits receiving federal funding or being considered part of the interstate highway system.

However, there was a hold up with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review process, with the former administration repeatedly refusing to provide guidance as to whether the MTA would need to complete either an abbreviated environmental assessment (EA) or a larger-scale environmental impact statement (EIS).

Finally, in late-March, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) informed the MTA, as well as the city and state Transportation departments, that they will need to complete an Environmental Assessment, the quicker of two possible review processes.

"Since then, we have been in deep, detailed and productive discussions with the Federal Highway Administration over exactly what that entails. We will move forward on a timeline that meets all requirements set out for us," Lovett said.

About New York's Congestion Pricing Program

As part of the $175 billion state budget approved on April 1, 2019, the MTA's Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority (TBTA) will establish the CBDTP, which will charge travelers a variable fee for driving into Manhattan's Central Business District, defined as any area south of 60th Street.

Congestion pricing refers to the use of electronic tolling to charge vehicles for entering certain areas during peak commuting hours, ideally resulting in reduced traffic congestion and increased revenue for transit-oriented projects.

A six-member Traffic Mobility Review Board will recommend toll pricing to the TBTA, which will ultimately determine the toll prices, which may vary based on a combination of factors and may potentially offer exemptions and credits to certain travelers. Thus far, only de Blasio has recommended a member to the review board.

The toll could potentially vary based on the time of day, the amount of traffic, the total distance traveled within the zone and the time spent driving within the zone.

The program is expected to generate $1 billion annually, which can be bonded against for $15 billion, which will be placed in a designated MTA "lockbox" to fund capital improvements to the ailing mass transit system.

In 2019, a source involved with New York City congestion pricing proposals told the Advance it was "fair to say" that the panel would start with a baseline of the existing tolls on the Hugh L. Carey and Queens Midtown tunnels, resulting in a two-way fee of $6.55 or one-way fee of $13.10 under the current tolling structure.

According to the source, the determining factor in selecting the price will be assuring that the annual generated revenue meets the $1 billion needed to secure the $15 billion in bonds for repairs and improvements to the public transportation system.

(c)2021 Staten Island Advance, N.Y. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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