NEW YORK (PIX11) — The Federal Highway Administration gave the green light to the concept of congestion pricing earlier this month.
Officials are working on details during a review process that will last into June. Opponents are saying not so fast.
The idea has been discussed for years. In 2019, the Legislature and then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo approved the legislation that created the law that created the Central Business District Tolling Program.
The MTA has been studying plans for months, evaluating different numbers, holding public meetings, and gathering thousands of comments.
Planners were required to submit plans to the Federal Highway Administration. That agency reviewed the 4,000-page document and found there would be no significant impact as part of an environmental assessment. The executive summary has been released.
“Less congestion, better air quality, safer streets, better transit. That’s what this policy means. That’s what congestion pricing is going to do?” said MTA Chairman Janno Lieber.
MTA officials say the final congestion pricing plans will address some potential adverse effects. Many groups have asked for exemptions and discounts.
Some have already been identified in the documents:
- A 25% discount for low-income, frequent drivers after the first 10 trips each month (excluding overnight)
- Taxis and for-hire-vehicles may not be tolled more than once a day
- At least a 50% discount on the peak toll for trucks and other vehicles from at least midnight to 4 a.m.
There are six members of the Traffic Mobility Review Board (TMRB). They are nominated by the governor, with one member nominated by the New York City mayor.
“The traffic mobility review board may recommend policies related to discounts and exemptions that go beyond the commitments in the environmental assessment,” the MTA said in a statement.
NYC Council Member Joe Borelli (R-Staten Island) says people should not be punished for driving from one side of the city to another.
“These are not the people that we should be giving unfettered access to our money,” he said.
He pointed to state and federal funds that have been budgeted for the MTA.
Opponents of the plan say it’s a tax and they’re promising to fight it back to Washington D.C., Albany, and New Jersey.
Congestion pricing will allow the transit agency to raise billions in bonds to fund major capital improvements for the future. It also will provide money for parks, and air filtration units in schools near highways, expand the city’s asthma case management program in schools, and establish a new asthma center in the Bronx.
The review board is tasked with developing toll rates and any credits, discounts, or exemptions. The recommendations will be presented to the MTA Board for consideration and approval before the program is implemented.
The agency says traffic patterns, traffic mitigation measures, operating costs, vehicle types, public impact, public safety, peak/off-peak rates, and environmental impacts will be considered.