NJ pledges to fight NYC congestion pricing proposal

New Jersey’s reaction to New York’s congestion pricing plan to charge tolls for driving south of 60th Street in Manhattan was predictable — the proposed tolls are too high and public officials have vowed to fight it.

An environmental assessment of the plan released Wednesday by the MTA included seven toll scenarios, including one that gives drivers using the George Washington Bridge and the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels a credit for those tolls toward peak-period congestion pricing charges. $23 for non-commercial passenger vehicles.

A basic plan would charge $9 with no credit given for Hudson or East River tolls for non-commercial passenger vehicles.

Congestion pricing could cost New Jersey workers who commute by car at least $5,000 more per year, said Ron Simoncini, executive director of the Fair Congestion Pricing Alliance.

“New Jersey commuters are sitting ducks for whatever New York wants to do,” he said. “No way New Jerseyans can spend an extra 7% to 12% of their income commuting to New York.”

Many of those affected commuters have no alternative to driving, he said.

“If you could get them all on public transport, that would be something else. But there is no alternative for most of these people,” Simoncini said. “They are trapped.”

Congestion pricing, now in its third iteration, achieves several goals: reducing traffic and congestion, reducing air pollution, and providing at least $1 billion a year in additional revenue for major projects. buses, subways and MTA commuter trains, according to the study.

But that doesn’t help the Jersey riders, Simoncini said. The law that created the congestion charge sends all revenue to the MTA, despite calls to share funds with NJ Transit and PATH to compensate for additional passengers who might switch cars to those systems.

“The New Jersey car commuter bears the cost,” he said. “So car commuters in New Jersey are paying for commuters in New York to get to work.”

A spokesperson for Governor Phil Murphy, who is out of the country, reiterated a comment he made to US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg about commuters not receiving credit for GWB tolls towards the congestion pricing toll.

“While the environmental assessment is under review by New Jersey state agencies and comments will be submitted as necessary and appropriate, the Murphy administration will not support a double tax on New Jerseyans that offers no direct relief to commuters in our state,” said Bailey Lawrence, the governor’s spokesperson.

U.S. Representative Josh Gottheimer, D-5th Dist., called the toll proposals “worse than expected.”

“In each scenario, Jersey drivers will end up paying thousands more and more of the tolls they already pay to cross the George Washington Bridge on their way to work in New York City,” he said. “In every scenario, Jersey commuters are hosed down.”

The release of the massive congestion pricing environmental scan on Wednesday kicks off the countdown to a public comment period that ends September 9 and includes six online virtual public hearings from August 25-31. A schedule and registration instructions are on the MTA congestion pricing site at https://new.mta.info/project/CBDTP.

“I plan to participate in the virtual public hearings and encourage all Jersey drivers to join in and raise their voices in response to the congestion charge,” Gottheimer said.

Simoncini said he plans to speak at all six hearings.

The National Motorists Association urged the Federal Highway Administration to take the no-action alternative and not implement congestion pricing, said NMA New Jersey policy director Steve Carrellas.

“The calculated time and financial costs of congestion to businesses, commuters and residents are some of the purported justifications for the program,” he said.

What drivers prefer are the wider benefits that driving or car sharing offers over public transit – “which has its own growing problems and contributes to wasted time and money”, did he declare.

The anger was not limited to New Jersey. Officials in Rockland County, New York, and other communities west of the Hudson River also lambasted the plan for similar reasons — no benefit to their commuters, a trio of public officials said during a a press conference in Nanuet on Wednesday.

Pearl River Assemblyman Mike Lawler, Rockland County Executive Ed Day, and MTA Board Member Frank Borelli all looked like honorary New Jerseyans.

“We are already strapped for services and funding, so it is patently absurd that the cost of maintaining and improving New York City’s transit system should be placed on Rockland, Westchester, Putnam and Dutchess County residents,” said Lawler, who introduced a bill in the New York Legislature to repeal congestion pricing.

Gottheimer echoed a sentiment mentioned by New York officials, questioning the financial management of the MTA and the $15 billion received in federal COVID relief.

“The MTA should look carefully in the mirror and improve its failing systems that are costing it millions,” he said.

One solution is to act on the “Stay in Jersey” concept, Simoncini said. Gottheimer proposed it in May to provide tax incentives to entice New York businesses to open satellite offices in New Jersey and to encourage Jersey commuters to work from home for as long as they can, in order to avoid travel costs.

On Tuesday, three Bergen County state lawmakers said they plan to introduce bills offering $15 million in tax credits through the state’s Economic Development Authority to New York companies opening facilities in New Jersey.

State Sen. Joe Lagana and Assemblymen Chris Tully and Lisa Swain, D-Bergen, spoke about the price of congestion at a Fair Lawn press conference on Tuesday, announcing the bill.

“Reducing our environmental footprint and reducing travel costs and travel time are goals we proudly support,” Tully said. “New Jersey residents shouldn’t foot the bill for New York’s failure to invest in their own infrastructure.”

By encouraging New York-based employers to open remote offices in New Jersey and attracting new businesses with them, “our ‘Stay in Jersey’ legislation will significantly reduce traffic congestion and air pollution without financially targeting commuters. of the state,” he said.

Proponents of congestion pricing said the plan would have a neutral effect on most Jersey drivers.

The Regional Plan Association said the benefits are an estimated 20% decrease in traffic and “significant time savings” for anyone traveling to Manhattan, said Brian Fritsch, an RPA spokesman.

“Having uniform tolls for all drivers in Manhattan, including credits for the GWB, RFK, and Henry Hudson bridges, is the right approach to reducing toll purchases and the congestion associated with it,” he said. declared. “Drivers (travelling) through the Holland and Lincoln tunnels would see a relatively small change in fees while those currently using free passes would see a larger increase.”

“Less than about 3% of New Jersey workers who commute to Manhattan’s central business district drive there,” said Tri-State Transportation Campaign policy manager Liam Blank, citing group analysis.

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Larry Higgs can be reached at [email protected].

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