Congestion pricing on its last legs?

April 4, 2008 2:07:13 PM PDT
The deadline for congestion pricing in Albany is just three days away.If it's not approved by Monday, New York City would lose $354 million in federal funds.

Sources tell Eyewitness News that the Bloomberg administration is willing to make changes to get the plan through the legislature.

Political reporter Dave Evans has more.

Bloomberg's team is offering a lot of different changes in Albany, anything to get this bill passed by the Monday deadline.

But most lawmakers we've talked with say there are just too many questions, too many problems, to make congestion pricing a reality.

The plan is now on life-support. Sources in the Assembly say the votes just aren't there. And Democratic leader Malcolm Smith says the same thing is happening in the Senate. Bloomberg's dream is in trouble.

Lawmakers in Albany are more concerned with a late budget right now. Governor Paterson is even refusing to let the legislature go home.

"I have requested of the legislative leaders that members of the legislature stay here until this budget is passed," Paterson said. "If that means staying the weekend, that's what we'll do."

In the middle of all this budget trouble, Bloomberg's team is trying to persuade lawmakers.

We've learned possible amendments include:

  • Exempting cars coming off the 59th Street bridge if they're going north
  • Increase the fee on black cars
  • Offering a three-year pilot program instead of making congestion pricing permanent

    "Problem number one is can this be a three-year pilot, where the legislature gets to look at it," said Kathy Wylde, of the NYC Partnership. "They like to do things this way, sunset it in three years, come back and say did it work, how did it work?"

    The city's lobbying effort on congestion pricing also took a hit when Bloomberg's transportation commissioner was pulled over for speeding and running a red light on her way to Albany. That's a big no-no, and it violates a Bloomberg directive.

    But the big concern right now is the late budget. It's squeezing out congestion pricing. New York Post reporter Fred Dicker asked Paterson why he couldn't stick around to answer more questions.

    "I'm going back to crack the whip, Fred," Paterson replied.

    The deadline is Monday because the federal Department of Transportation is dangling $354 million to help New York City with its traffic, but only if the congestion pricing plan in place.