U.S. Reps Josh Gottheimer and Rob Menendez urged the Biden administration to reconsider approval of New York City’s congestion pricing plan.
Standing outside the Holland Tunnel, two New Jersey congressmen decried the plan to implement congestion pricing across the Hudson River, arguing the plan will harm New Jersey residents simply so New York can have another way to fund its transit system.
The federal government last week gave a crucial green light to the controversial plan for New York City to be the first in the nation to charge a fee for drivers entering congested areas — in this case, Manhattan below 60th Street. It could cost motorists as much as $23 a day, and supporters say it’s an environmentally conscious way to discourage driving into Manhattan while funding mass transportation.
But U.S. Reps. Rob Menendez and Josh Gottheimer criticized the plan Tuesday as one that will divert motorists into already traffic-choked North Jersey communities, release more toxins and pollutants on this side of the Hudson, and shift revenue from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which oversees the city’s rail and bus system.
Menendez shouted his argument over honking cars and screeching trucks entering the nearby tunnel.
“Look, this is today without congestion pricing,” said Menendez. “Now, if people want to go down to Exchange Place or Newport to take the PATH, this traffic will go through our neighborhoods. It will impact our neighborhoods. There’s no way around it.”
Gottheimer blasted the federal government for brushing off a full environmental impact study and opting for an environmental assessment instead, comparing the choice to reading Cliffs Notes instead of a book. He took the 868-page assessment to task, underscoring statistics in it stating air pollution will increase outside of the city.
He called the federal Department of Transportion’s decision not to require a more robust environmental impact study “a little odd for an administration that claims to be for protecting the environment.”
Congestion pricing is expected to raise $1 billion annually for the MTA. Some of the revenue should come back to New Jersey’s transit system, and commuters should be exempt from the tolls, Menendez and Gottheimer said.
Because fewer drivers would be expected to use bridges and tunnels to get into Manhattan, Port Authority would lose an estimated $1.25 billion in revenue over 10 years — money that could go to a new bus terminal, upgrades to the PATH system, or extending the subway’s 7 line into Secaucus, Menendez said.
“They’re not looking for real solutions to their challenge,” he added. “They’re looking to fund an underfunded MTA.”
Gov. Phil Murphy echoed those concerns in a statement Friday, calling the decision to move forward without a full environmental impact study one that “undercuts some of the (Biden) administration’s own long-term goals.” He said his office is assessing all legal options.
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