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Board signs off new tolls for congestion pricing

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(The Center Square) – Commuters will have to dig deeper into their pockets to drive into New York City, following a decision by the city’s transit agency to sign off on new toll charges for its controversial congestion pricing plan.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Board of Directors voted nearly unanimously on Wednesday to give final approval to a proposal to charge drivers $15 to enter Manhattan below 60th Street.

Board members say the program, the first of its kind in the nation, will reduce traffic, congestion and tailpipe pollution while raising billions of dollars to support the city’s public transit system.

“New York has more traffic than anywhere in the United States and now we’re doing something about it,” Chairman and CEO Janno Lieber said in remarks after the board’s vote.

Under the new tolling charges, motorists will be charged an additional $15 to enter Manhattan at 61st Street and below, while trucks could be charged between $24 and $36, depending on their size. Ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft will pay a $2.50 surcharge

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, who sued the transportation authority to block the congestion pricing plan, ripped the approval of an “unfair tolling scheme that discriminates against New Jerseyans, especially lower and middle-income drivers.”

“This is far from over and we will continue to fight this blatant cash grab,” he said in a statement. The MTA’s actions today are further proof that they are determined to violate the law in order to balance their budget on the backs of New Jersey commuters.”

Rep. Josh Gottheimer, a member of the Congressional Anti-Congestion Tax Caucus, called the vote a “rubber stamp” that “ignored the voices of tens of thousands of families who begged them to do the right thing.”

“It just proves what we knew all along – the MTA doesn’t care about less traffic, helping the environment, or supporting families,” the Democrat said. “They will do anything to cover their historic mismanagement – and the billions of dollars they bleed out every year.”

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, has praised the move as a “critical step forward” and said it will mean “cleaner air, better transit and less gridlock on New York City’s streets.”

The only exemptions from the new toll charges will be for public school buses, commuter buses and “essential” government vehicles, according to the MTA. The agency plans to offer a 25% discount for low-income commuters, or those making $50,000 or less annually, and on-peak and off-peak tolls if they make at least 10 trips to the zone.

Officials estimate the new fee will bring in about $1 billion annually that the agency will use as leverage to borrow more money for its $51 billion multi-year capital plan.

The transportation authority faces a potential $2.6 billion budget deficit in 2025 and is seeking more state funding to help reduce its projected shortfalls.

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