Feds OK Assessment of Congestion Pricing In NYC

9th Ave. in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen        Photo: Roger Rowlett, Wiki CC

By Natasha Lasky, ODP Staff Writer

The Biden administration has greenlit the study of congestion pricing for driving in New York City after years of delays during the Trump administration. A congestion pricing program would charge cars a toll for driving south of midtown Manhattan between 60th Street and Battery Park. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a statement that the state will now begin an “environmental assessment” and public outreach campaign for the program. “Congestion pricing is an internationally proven method to reduce traffic congestion, enhance the availability and reliability of public transportation, and improve our air quality,” Cuomo said in a statement Tuesday.

Why this Matters:  A study conducted by Cornell suggests that a congestion pricing plan could drastically improve both gridlock and air quality in New York City — the study found that traffic congestion could be reduced by up to 40%, while greenhouse gas emissions could be reduced by 15%.  This plan could also help the city bolster its public transportation, as the toll could raise $15 billion for the city, which could in turn help pay for the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s $51.5 billion plan to transform the public transportation system.

Congestion Pricing Finally on the Fast Track

Congestion pricing has been in the works for a while — the plan was initially passed by the state legislature in 2019— but the Trump administration blocked the project for more than a year, by refusing to clarify whether it would need a long and expensive “Environmental Impact Statement,” or a much easier “Environmental Assessment.”

The Federal Highway Administration, headed by Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, let the project move forward under the latter.  This Assessment will look more precisely at how a toll could affect traffic and emissions. It remains unclear what price the toll would be — according to Politico, previous proposals have suggested that the toll should be between $12 and $14 for cars, and $25 for trucks

In his statement, Governor Cuomo said: “We thank President Biden and U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg for advancing this important program, and we look forward to continuing to work together to further advance our nation-leading $306 billion infrastructure plan, which is preparing the State to be globally competitive for generations to come.”

NYC is already in the process of designing the roadway toll system and the infrastructure needed to implement it.  These systems are in use in London, Singapore, and Milan.  A similar congestion pricing system has been discussed for Los Angeles and other American cities, which will be watching how New York handles this.

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