MANHATTAN, N.Y. (PIX11) — Congestion pricing, the plan by New York state and New York City to charge motorists a fee to drive below 60th Street in Manhattan, met a new effort to stifle it on Wednesday. 

A handful of members of Congress from New York and New Jersey announced that they had formed a caucus aimed at defeating the measure. However, public transportation advocates and the MTA called for congestion pricing to go ahead, saying that it would benefit a large majority of people in the metro New York area. 

Details about the plan are still being worked out, even though it had originally been set to be implemented in 2021. It would charge anywhere from $9 to $23 per day to drive in Manhattan below 60th Street, in an effort to reduce traffic. 

Similar plans have been put in place over the last four decades in other large cities, including Singapore, London and Stockholm. Based on those cities’ experiences, and research focused on New York, some supporters of congestion pricing say that it will reduce traffic volume by up to 20%.

The money collected from it would be required by law to go toward investments in public transit. It would raise about $1 billion per year, according to supporters. 

However, on Wednesday, two prominent detractors doubled down on criticisms they’ve made before.  

“We want to see this thing dead,” said Nicole Malliotakis, the member of Congress representing Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn. “We want to make sure that we end congestion pricing because it is the cash grab at the absolute wrong time, when people are struggling.”

The Republican made her comments at a news conference at the entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel on the west side of Manhattan. It was organized by her and Josh Gottheimer, a Democratic member of Congress whose district stretches across the northern tier of New Jersey. 

Together, they announced what they call the Anti-Congestion Tax Caucus. It’s made up of the two of them and two other representatives, Tom Kean of New Jersey, and Mike Lawler of New York, both of whom are first-term Republicans.

”Think of it like a task force,” Gottheimer said about his caucus of four. 

He added, on behalf of the group, that the MTA, which would carry out and benefit from the plan, is squandering the $18.5 billion that it gets from the state yearly.

The caucus, Gottheimer said, has introduced a bill that will “require the office of the inspector general of the Department of Transportation to conduct a full audit of the MTA.

In opposition, a spokesperson for the public transportation advocacy group Riders Alliance said that the caucus’ efforts ultimately hurt commuters.

“If this caucus succeeds in defunding the MTA,“ said Danny Pearlstein, “the result will be that the [Congress] members’ own constituents are stuck in gridlock on buses [and] delayed on unreliable subways.”

PIX11 News spoke with some drivers who were in what would be the congestion pricing zone below 60th Street. They were unanimously against it.

“It’s too much for us,” one driver said about the potential cost. “Too much. It’s too much.”

Another motorist was succinct and heartfelt. “Ripoff,” he said. 

He was a car service driver. His passenger was also terse but emphatic in her comment about the plan.  

“Not good,” she said, adding that she was visiting New York from Germany. Her country has congestion pricing for trucks in a variety of cities. 

For its part, the MTA pointed out that a study released this week from the traffic monitoring company Tom Tom showed that New York is the most congested city in the country and is among the top 20 most traffic snarled cities worldwide. 

The MTA also said in a statement from Chief of External Relations John McCarthy, “…reducing car and truck traffic is good for the environment, good for getting fire trucks, buses and delivery vehicles through the city, and good for the 90% of people who depend on mass transit.”

The Federal Highway Administration has yet to complete its environmental assessment of the city’s congestion pricing plan. It’s possible, according to comments made recently by MTA Chair Janno Lieber, for the plan to be implemented during the second quarter of 2024.