New York

NYC, New Jersey pols rail about MTA congestion pricing plan

The Bronx’s Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.) on Monday joined a growing chorus of politicians sharply criticizing the MTA’s congestion pricing plan to toll motorists who drive south of 60th St. in Manhattan.,

At a news conference, Torres griped about findings in the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s draft environmental assessment of the plan — particularly one that estimated the scheme would cause 50 to 704 additional trucks to drive over the Cross Bronx Expressway each day.

Torres said he was “blindsided” and “misled” by the findings released last week.

“The systematic suffocation of the Bronx with ever greater pollution and ever higher asthma rates cannot continue and cannot be compounded by a congestion pricing plan that treats the Bronx as nothing more than Manhattan’s dumping ground for diesel truck traffic,” said Torres. “If you’re going to burden us with more diesel truck traffic, then it’s incumbent upon the state to create a plan for mitigating those impacts.”

Torres said he supports the overall goals of congestion pricing: Charge motorists in Manhattan’s central business district and use the proceeds to fund mass transit upgrades.

But he worried the program would damage air quality in his district unless state officials take further measures to reduce pollution from the Cross-Bronx Expressway.

As Torres held his news conference, Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) and Nicole Malliotakis (R-N.Y.) stood in front of another podium on Manhattan’s West Side declaring state officials should sink congestion pricing altogether.

The pair have been among the most vocal opponents of the program since it was approved by state lawmakers in 2019 — and pointed to legislation they’ve proposed to extend its environmental review and to revoke federal funding for the MTA if the tolls launch.

“This is nothing more than the latest cash grab of the MTA and nothing more than the latest war on cars by the city and the state,” Malliotakis said.

MTA officials next week will launch a series of public hearings on the tolling plan. Janno Lieber, the agency’s chairman, hopes the Federal Highway Administration will sign off on the tolls later this year with a targeted launch date in early 2024.

The MTA plans to charge motorists $5 to $23 to enter Manhattan below 60th St., with the cost depending on the time of day and which pricing model the agency’s board approves. The agency presented seven different price structures, each of which would have a different impact on where Manhattan-bound traffic is pushed.

The revenue from congestion pricing is required by state law to finance $15 billion of the state’s 2020-2024 capital program, which includes plans to start work on four new Metro-North stations in the Bronx and preliminary engineering for the overhaul of Penn Station, a key hub for commuters from New Jersey.

Gov. Hochul on Monday defended the program, pointing to public outreach sessions the MTA has held over the last year as evidence state officials are in touch with concerns from communities throughout the region.

“The thought is we would do everything we can in our power to encourage people to take public transit and get the vehicles off the road,” said Hochul. “There may be localized impacts. The idea of the study is to mitigate those.”

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