Green trucks would pay less under Manhattan congestion toll plan

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New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced Wednesday, June 13, that his plan to reduce traffic by charging tolls in congested areas of Manhattan now would include discounts for new trucks that meet the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s emissions-reductions standards for 2007 engines, or older trucks retrofitted to reduce emissions by at least 85 percent.

When the plan was first announced in April, it proposed charging trucks $21 to enter Manhattan below 86th Street between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. But to gain support from the trucking industry and to encourage fleet owners and individual drivers to use the new cleaner-burning vehicles, trucks that meet new federal guidelines for diesel engines would qualify for discounts on the $21 fee, dropping it to $7, Bloomberg says.

“We’re going to build mass transit for people and discourage them from bringing their automobiles into the city – we’re not building mass transit for truckers,” Bloomberg says. “Truckers still have to drive their trucks in, so they are fundamentally different, and to try to make this a more equitable and balanced kind of program, we’ll do this.”

The traffic plan needs to be passed by the state Legislature, which is nearing the end of its annual session. Bloomberg, who has been lobbying state lawmakers to get behind it, is hoping to push it through by August so the city can qualify for hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding for transportation projects. Some state leaders have suggested the Legislature might have to come back for a special session in the summer to act on Bloomberg’s proposal if lawmakers don’t get to it before the session ends next week.

Opponents of the plan have questioned whether middle-class working commuters from outside Manhattan should have to pay to travel into the center of the city; under the proposal, cars would be charged $8.