New York state lawmakers reject Manhattan congestion fee

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New York state lawmakers on Monday, April 7, rejected a proposal to charge Manhattan motorists an extra fee to drive in the city, a plan advocates hoped would reduce traffic and curb pollution, the Associated Press reported. The decision, which comes after days of closed-door negotiations, means the city will forfeit $354 million in federal funding for trying to kick-start the plan.

The concept, which aimed to cut traffic and pollution by forcing more commuters onto mass transit, would have charged most drivers $8 to drive below 60th Street between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Friday; truckers would have paid $21.

The New York State Legislature faced a Monday deadline to act on Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposal, which already was endorsed by Democratic Gov. David Paterson, the Republican-led Senate and the City Council. But the plan ran into objections from legislators from outer boroughs and New York City suburbs who said it would unfairly target commuters and their constituents, according to the AP.

“Many members just don’t believe in the concept,” Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver told the AP. “Many think this proposal is flawed. It will not be on the floor of the Assembly.” Silver told the AP that part of the problem with the proposal, which Bloomberg had said could begin next year, was that it didn’t provide immediate funding to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The agency that runs the city’s mass transit already is underfunded and needs to be bolstered before it takes on more commuters, Silver told the AP.

The American Trucking Associations applauded the news. “Like many areas of the United States, New York’s transportation networks are strained, and the city is searching for a solution to its problem,” said Bill Graves, ATA president and chief executive officer. “But congestion pricing schemes are unfair, ineffective and ignore our real transportation needs. While there is a need to heavily invest in infrastructure, congestion pricing does little to relieve congestion and is merely a revenue raiser.”

ATA’s concerns with the New York City plan included the following:

  • Truck drivers cannot change delivery times, which are set by the shipper and the receiver;
  • Workers entering the city cannot change their shift times;
  • The plan did not increase road capacity for use by all vehicles;
  • Charging an additional fee for trucks that already have paid for the highway with fuel taxes and other federal and state taxes is unfair;
  • Such plans usually increase congestion and parking problems in nearby areas; and
  • Congestion pricing fees on trucks ultimately result in an increase in costs to businesses and consumers.
  • New York City was one of five cities selected last August to receive a share of $1.1 billion in federal funds to help address traffic congestion. The money would have been allocated as part of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Urban Partnership Program. The other cities selected were Seattle, San Francisco, Miami and Minneapolis.

    U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters expressed disappointment in the state’s decision. “New York’s mounting traffic and environmental woes point to congestion pricing as an inevitable solution, even if not in the next few months or with the assistance of federal Urban Partnership dollars,” Peters said. “Starting tomorrow, we will engage with many of the largest cities in the United States that have put forward ambitious traffic fighting plans to discuss how they could use this money to cut traffic, improve transit and reduce pollution.”