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New Jersey officials blast $15 toll for New York congestion pricing

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(The Center Square) — New Jersey officials are blasting the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s plans to charge motorists $15 to enter Manhattan as part of the nation’s first congestion pricing program.

The MTA’s Traffic Mobility Review Board will recommend the new toll charges when it meets next week, according to a report leaked to news outlets. The new tolling charges would go into effect in mid-2024 under the panel’s recommendations.

The new charges will include a $15 toll for passenger vehicles entering the city from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m., a $24 toll for small trucks and a $36 charge for larger trucks, like 18-wheelers. Ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft will pay a $2.50 surcharge.

Gov. Phil Murphy said the leaked tolling report “demonstrates the rushed and opaque process that the MTA and the Traffic Mobility Review Board have pursued to impose an unfair and ill-conceived congestion pricing tolling scheme on New Jersey commuters.”

“Everyone in the region deserves access to more reliable mass transit, but placing an unjustified financial burden on New Jersey commuters is wrong,” he said in a statement. “We are left with no choice than to continue addressing our concerns through litigation.”

Murphy, a Democrat, said he supports the congestion pricing concept, but it must be “structured in a way that is fair to all sides.”

“This plan is neither fair nor equitable,” he said.

Other New Jersey officials also blasted the proposed tolls, saying they will saddle motorists with thousands of dollars a year in costs and increase pollution.

“As advertised, New York is officially sticking it to Jersey families with their commuter-crushing Congestion Tax,” said Rep. Josh Gottheimer, a New Jersey Democrat. “If it wasn’t costly enough, the Congestion Tax will also increase toxic, cancer-causing pollution in Jersey.”

The issue has driven a wedge between political leaders from both Democrat-led states as state and federal courts consider legal challenges.

New Jersey filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration in July, alleging the federal agencies violated the National Environmental Protection Act and the Clean Air Act by giving a green light to the congestion pricing plan.

Earlier this month, Fort Lee, New Jersey, Mayor Mark Sokolich filed a class action lawsuit against the DOT and New York agencies, arguing that the MTA’s congestion pricing will endanger public health by creating more pollution.

New York officials say 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.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams and Gov. Kathy Hochul have defended the new pricing plan, which was approved by the state Legislature in 2019. They claim it will help reduce the region’s traffic congestion and blunt the impact of climate change by reducing tailpipe pollution.

The MTA says it has made concessions to ease criticism of the plan, including a 25% discount for low-income commuters, or those making $50,000 annually, on-peak and off-peak tolls if they make at least 10 trips to the zone.

But that has done little to sway New Jersey officials, who continue to argue the new tolling system is a “cash grab” to bail out the MTA, facing record deficits, at the expense of motorists from other states.

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