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Hochul pauses New York City’s congestion pricing plan, citing costs

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(The Center Square) — In a stunning reversal, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul is putting the brakes on New York City’s controversial congestion pricing plan, citing the cost to motorists from the new tolls.

On Wednesday, Hochul announced that “after careful consideration,” she has directed the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to “indefinitely” pause the congestion pricing system, which was set to go into effect on June 30.

Hochul said she still supports the “goals” of the program to reduce traffic and pollution, but said, “hardworking New Yorkers are getting hammered on cost and they, and the economic vitality of our city, must be protected.”

“Let’s be real: A $15 charge may not seem like a lot to someone who has the means but it can break the budget of a hard-working or middle-class household,” Hochul said in a video statement.

Under the program, motorists would 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 would pay a $2.50 surcharge. The only exemptions from the new toll charges would be for public school buses, commuter buses and “essential” government vehicles, according to the MTA.

Supporters, including New York City Mayor Eric Adams, say the first-in-the-nation program would reduce traffic, congestion and tailpipe pollution while raising billions of dollars to support the city’s public transit system.

But the new plan has been hit with several legal challenges, including one by New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, who has called the new tolling charges a “cash grab” that would hurt New Jersey commuters.

Murphy, a Democrat, praised Hochul for pausing the program, saying in a statement on Wednesday that “the success of Manhattan is inextricably linked to the prosperity of the entire Tri-State Area.”

“Although we have had a difference of opinion with our colleagues in New York on congestion pricing implementation, we have always had a shared vision for growing our regional economy, investing in infrastructure, protecting our environment, and creating good-paying jobs on both sides of the Hudson River,” he said.

Two chief critics of the plan, U.S. Reps. Josh Gottheimer, a New Jersey Democrat, and Nicole Malliotakis, a New York Republican, issued a joint statement commending Hochul for pausing the program.

“Gov. Hochul is right, New Yorkers and New Jersey families do ‘have a lot to lose’ from implementation of this Congestion Tax — primarily their hard-earned money,” they said.

Some Republicans argue the move may be politically motivated.

“NYDems will magically try to make their congestion go away before the election because NO ONE wants it,” Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt, Republican, said in a statement. “Make no mistake, congestion pricing will come right back and the costs will go up the moment the election is over.”

Still, Hochul’s decision prompted criticism from some Democrats, including Rep. Jerry Nadler, who said he was “disappointed” by the move to postpone the program.

“After years of delays, we need congestion pricing now more than ever to reduce paralyzing traffic in the Central Business District, improve air quality in our city and region, and raise desperately needed capital funds to enhance the public transit system,” Nadler said in a statement. “We cannot allow a vocal minority of drivers who don’t qualify for exemptions or discounts to dictate our policy decisions.”

Former President Donald Trump, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee whose Trump Tower residence would be covered by the new tolls, has said he would “terminate” the congestion pricing plan if he’s elected.

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