Lawmakers, labor workers speak out against MTA's congestion pricing plan

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Tuesday, August 8, 2023
NJ lawmakers stand up against MTA's congestion pricing plan
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New Jersey lawmakers are standing up with labor workers and first responders against the MTA's congestion pricing plan. Reporter Anthony Johnson has the latest details.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Lawmakers stood up with labor workers and first responders on Tuesday to speak out against the MTA's congestion pricing plan.

Critics say it will have a disastrous impact on anyone who commutes into New York City and future Port Authority capital projects.

Union bosses say the plan will be an unfair burden on those who keep us safe and keep the region running. Port Authority unions, along with other labor leaders, said their workers should be exempt.

"The average Port Authority employee works about 260 days a year, under this congestion pricing plan, the $23 a day roughly adds up to about $6,000," said Port Authority Sergeants Benevolent Association President Rob Zafonte

Congressman Josh Gottheimer said the plan will price out 20% of drivers from coming into the congestion zone below 60th Street in Manhattan.

"Fewer commuters equals fewer tolls, fewer investment for infrastructure, that's $1.25 billion less than the Port Authority's capital projects, the MTA is literally robbing Peter to pay Paul to help themselves out," Gottheimer said.

By some estimates, anyone who has to drive below 60th Street will shell out another $5,000 per year because of the congestion pricing toll.

Congressman Anthony D'Esposito, from New York, was blunt about the impact this will have on residents of his district.

"This plan, spoken like a true New Yorker, screws hard-working men and women who are trying to do the right thing," D'Esposito said.

The new tolls are expected to generate another $1 billion yearly, which would be used to finance upgrading the subway, bus and commuter rail systems operated by the MTA and the agency says everyone will benefit.

An MTA spokesperson released the following statement:

"Congestion pricing is good for the environment, good for getting fire trucks, buses and delivery vehicles through the city, improves air quality, makes streets safer, and is good for the 85% of people who depend on mass transit to get to where they need to go, including more than $1 billion for LIRR improvements - many of which are in Congressman D'Esposito's district."

People headed into Manhattan already pay big tolls to use many of the bridges and tunnels connecting commuters across the Hudson, East and Harlem Rivers. The special tolls for the southern half of Manhattan would come on top of those existing charges. Taxi and car service drivers have also objected to the plan, saying it would make fares unaffordable.

The state Legislature approved a conceptual plan for congestion pricing back in 2019, but the coronavirus pandemic combined with a lack of guidance from federal regulators stalled the project.

The congestion pricing plan is expected to take effect next spring.

Next week the Traffic Mobility Review Board will meet to solidify just how much drivers will be charged when they enter Manhattan below 60th Street.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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