New Jersey strikes back against NYC’s congestion pricing plan

April 5, 20240

‘You are not eliminating pollution’

Wednesday, April 3, 2024


NEW YORK — A federal judge in Newark heard oral arguments Wednesday in the State of New Jersey’s lawsuit over New York’s first-in-the-nation congestion pricing.

The lawsuit is one of several seeking to stop the new $15 toll for passenger cars driving into the heart of Manhattan.

Starting in June, vehicles driving south of 60th Street from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekdays would be charged but New Jersey’s lawsuit said when the Federal Highway Administration signed off, it “failed to adequately consider the environment impacts” and “ignored the significant financial burden being placed on New Jerseyans and New Jersey’s transportation system.”

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said the lawsuit is seeking a full federal impact study on the potential environmental effects of congestion pricing.

“You are not eliminating pollution, you are just displacing it from Manhattan to New Jersey,” Murphy told reporters Tuesday. “And you’re charging our commuters an exorbitant fee on top of that.”

The plan, first envisioned by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg nearly two decades ago, is modeled after other cities like London, which experts say saw immediate reductions in traffic while using the toll revenue to invest in mass transit.

“Generally, it’s cut traffic in the 15 to 20 percent range with 15 or 20 percent fewer vehicles,” said transportation expert Sam Schwartz.

However, Londoners tell a different story.

“Here we are 16 years later, and the congestion and the road speeds are the same as they were before,” said Professor Tony Travers of the London School of Economics.

Over in the Garden State, more than 400,000 New Jersey residents commute into Manhattan every day and will pay millions of dollars to the MTA, meant to improve mass transit.

“The end result is that New Jersey will bear much of the burden of this congestion pricing scheme-in terms of environmental, financial, and human impacts-but receive none of its benefits,” the state’s lawsuit said.

The MTA has disputed the state’s claims of lax reviews and objectionable tolls.

“You got to be kidding! New Jersey collects millions from New York drivers who use the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway, but it’s somehow unconstitutional for New York to toll its own roads?” MTA chief of policy and external relations John McCarthy said in January.

As part of the MTA’s plan, parts of the Bronx would receive $35 million for mitigation. The plan does not specify a dollar amount set aside for New Jersey, but the agency says it is committing to mitigation where needed.

New Jersey is asking that congestion pricing switches stay off until another detailed study is done — especially since the MTA expanded congestion pricing peak time by two hours and approved the higher $15 base rate after the first impact study was completed.

Drivers who make less than $50,000 per year can apply for a discount and drivers who enter from the Lincoln, Holland, Battery and Queens-Midtown tunnels receive a credit since they’re also paying a toll.

The Murphy administration has asked the MTA to increase the proposed $5 toll credit to $10 and extend it to the George Washington Bridge, which would have no toll credit since it’s above the congestion zone.

John Ley

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