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Manhattan’s $15 Congestion Pricing Fee Gets Preliminary Approval

The congestion pricing fee would be for drivers entering Manhattan south of 60th street, but a New Jersey lawsuit threatens to delay its implementation. The fee is forecast to earn $1 billion for the MTA’s capital budget.

Manhattan bound traffic is backed up on the George Washington Bridge on the New Jersey side
Manhattan bound traffic is backed up on the George Washington Bridge on the New Jersey side. Coingestion pricing rates that exclude toll credits for the bridge were approved by the MTA which starts a public hearing process and then a final vote will be held.
Larry Higgs/TNS
The New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority board voted 9-1 Wednesday, Dec. 6, to preliminarily approve a $15 congestion pricing fee for drivers entering Manhattan south of 60th street as officials warned that New Jersey’s lawsuits to block it could be a speed bump to building the major transit projects the fee would fund.

MTA CEO and President Janno Lieber and Jamie Torres Springer, president of capital projects and construction, said the two New Jersey lawsuits would delay congestion pricing and result in pushing back the start of some of the capital projects.

“The lawsuit from New Jersey continues to put this funding at risk, despite the benefits to New Jersey commuters,” Springer said. “We are at the point some projects will be delayed. We can’t award projects until we know the funding is secure.”

How long of a delay would be caused is something MTA officials “have to figure out,” Lieber said after the meeting.

“But there are going to be delays from any lawsuit, but one as serious as a federal lawsuit by New Jersey means we can’t count on money showing up,” Liber said in response to a NJ Advance Media question. “It’s hard to award a contracts when you don’t have a revenue source.”

While the authority is working through exactly which projects will be affected, Lieber name checked the A Train Signal Project because of it’s size.

“That one bugs me a lot. The A train is our longest line, it carries a lot of people from the Rockaways, Central Brooklyn and Upper Manhattan that are transit dependent,” he said. “They deserve the same reliability and frequency of service we’ve been able to create on the 7 and L train lines.”

Other projects at risk of being delayed include building accessible stations for riders with handicaps, resiliency and customer communication projects, and buying more electric buses, Springer said. MTA financial documents estimated the litigation could cost the MTA $100 million to $300 million more in annual debt service costs.

Congestion pricing is forecast to raise $1 billion annually for the MTA capital budget to improve the subway, bus and MTA commuter railroads. The two lawsuits filed by New Jersey and Fort Lee challenge the Federal Highway Administration’s June approval of the environmental assessment.

Lieber said the planned capital improvement will benefit New Jersey commuters too.

“We’re hoping New Jersey wants to resolve this and we can work together,” Lieber said. “Politics aside, this is good for New Jersey. More New Jersey commuters get on the MTA than drive.”

A projected 80,00 to 110,000 commuters are forecasted to switch from driving to transit use, MTA officials said.

A spokeswoman for Gov. Phil Murphy reiterated comments he made last week after the $15 fee was announced, that the state considering “all our options including further legal actions.”

In addition to no toll credit being given for the George Washington Bridge, Murphy said “there’s no question more traffic will end up there (using the GWB), and we’ll see more pollution on the Jersey side.”

While a mediation session was held between both sides in the federal lawsuit filed by the state on Nov. 13. in Newark, Murphy said the judge asked remain the contents of that session confidential.

“I don’t see us anywhere near a deal,” Murphy said.

U.S. Rep Josh Gottheimer, D-5th Dist., who has been the most vehement critic, called the rates “worse than imagined, citing the MTA’s ability to “add 25 percent to prices on gridlock alert days...that’s $28 a day.”

“Even Governor Hochul said the Congestion Tax is just a plan to rescue the MTA from years of billion dollar budget holes and mismanagement,’ he said. “The MTA is a hot mess and just desperate for cash.”

Tuesday’s vote starts a state-mandated public hearing process. Public hearing are expected to be held in February and March and a 60-day comment period is open for written, emailed and record comments.

After a final vote by the MTA board, congestion pricing is scheduled to “go live in late spring,” said MTA COO Allison C. de Cerrano.

The board passed congestion pricing with one lone no vote from David Mack, a board member representing Nassau County. He voiced concern about the effect congestion pricing would have on restaurants, museums and other business that could see a drop off because of the fee.

“I cannot vote for it. I’d like to support it because the MTA needs the help,” he said. “Maybe there are other ways, (East River bridge) tolls, the federal government, but I wouldn’t want to hurt Lower Manhattan.”

Meanwhile work is continuing on installing congestion pricing toll infrastructure, which officials estimate is 60 percent complete.

Congestion pricing fees would be reduced by 75 percent overnight on weekdays between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m., and on weekends between 9 p.m. and 9 a.m. That was increased from a 50 percent discount.

Only drivers using Hudson and East River tunnels will get a $5 toll credit toward the congestion fee. No credit applies to crossing the George Washington Bridge.

Other details of the plan include:

  • Public and private commuter buses are exempt from the fee, but charter and tour buses would pay a fee.
  • Small trucks, such as box trucks, would pay $24.
  • Large tractor-trailers would pay $36.
  • A per-ride $1.25 charge for yellow, green cabs or black cars.
  • A per-ride $2.50 charge for Uber and Lyft ride share vehicles.
  • Drivers would only pay the fee once a day.

Congestion Pricing is estimated to cut the daily number of vehicles per day entering the central business district by 17 percent, and is expected increase mass transit use by up to 2 percent, officials said.

©2023 Advance Local Media LLC. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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