Congestion pricing in Manhattan inches closer to reality, lawmaker says he has the votes

MANHATTAN (WABC) -- Congestion pricing is inching closer to becoming a reality in Manhattan with more lawmakers backing the plan, but some key details still need to be ironed out.

Last-minute negotiations underway in Albany after Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie of the Bronx announced he has the votes to finally pass congestion pricing just a few days before the April 1 budget deadline.

Mayor Bill de Blasio recently rode the subway to raise support for this idea of tolling drivers below 60th Street.

The money would fund the MTA and ideally reduce congestion.

"The details of the exact cost of the toll, that's something that can be worked out after the fact," de Blasio said. "It has to be sufficient to cover the plan. It has to be a viable dollar figure. I'm not worried if that happens in different stages. I think the most important piece of this conversation is agreeing we're going to fund the MTA."

Congestion pricing has been the subject of protests both for and against, including drivers in outer boroughs and people with disabilities who say it's not fair to them.

"We shouldn't be taxing people who have no choice because of disabilities, because they can't take the subway," Assemblyman David Weprin said. "We need to have a plan, but this is not the plan."

"I cared about ensuring that outer-borough transit deserts, the places where people don't have enough mass transit, would get specific funding through this new initiative," de Blasio said. "And I cared about defining some of the hardship areas where we need to make exceptions."

It is unclear how much the toll will be, but one proposal suggested making the fee a little more than $11 a day. It is still up for negotiation and far from a done deal, but Governor Andrew Cuomo said on public radio Tuesday morning that he's cautiously optimistic the toll plan will be included in a new state budget.

Cuomo warned that without tolls, transit fares will increase to raise the billions of dollars needed for the aging subway system.

But Robert Sinclair, with AAA Northeast, sees no benefit to drivers.

"They are talking about these pricing proposals with no money for roads or bridges, and we are in an area where the road improvement programs say 69 percent of the roads are in mediocre or poor condition," he said. "Drivers are already put on by fees, taxes, tolls, surcharges that they are not a bottomless pit of money to be going to when there are some sort of fiscal difficulties."

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