New Jersey has filed a lawsuit to impede the roll-out of New York’s controversial congestion pricing plan, which could see drivers using E-ZPass paying up to $23 for entry into Manhattan below 60th Street.
The proposal had previously been greenlit by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), which determined the plan would not have significant environmental implications.
Filed in federal court in Newark, the lawsuit argues against the United States Department of Transportation and the FHWA, suggesting that their approval overlooked potential drawbacks for New Jersey residents.
The state has raised concerns that the congestion pricing tolls will disrupt commuting patterns, increasing pressure on New Jersey crossings excluded from the plan.
Governor Phil Murphy voiced New Jersey’s displeasure at a press conference, noting that the state is poised to experience the challenges of the plan while New York City reaps the benefits. He affirmed that state leaders will vigorously defend the interests of New Jersey residents.
Murphy said the FHWA “neglected to take into account especially the environmental impact on many communities in New Jersey as a result of this plan.” He continued, “Certainly, it is a financial burden beyond words for commuters in addition to the environmental impact, and it’s just not right.”
He added, “This is a plan we can’t accept, and we believe the feds short-circuited the normal review process here.”
Senator Bob Menendez denounced the plan, labeling it a “highway robbery” and disadvantageous to middle-class families, small businesses, and local communities.
New Jersey has also questioned the FHWA’s adherence to the National Environmental Policy Act, suggesting the agency disregarded the scheme’s environmental consequences for the state.
The congestion pricing plan, managed by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, anticipates annual revenue of $1 billion, contributing $15 billion for public transport infrastructure. The congestion tolls are also predicted to reduce district traffic by 20%.
Despite its financial benefits, the plan’s environmental evaluation has been scrutinized. New Jersey demands a comprehensive environmental impact statement, asserting that the existing review failed to address potential effects on the state’s air quality, including a likely increase in hazardous particulate matter.
The state alleges that while Manhattan’s air quality might improve, New Jersey’s will deteriorate due to shifting traffic and pollution. The consequent impact on Bergen County could lead to serious health issues such as premature mortality, asthma attacks, bronchitis, and a spike in emergency room visits.
While Governor Murphy is not entirely opposed to the idea of congestion pricing, he argues that the current proposal is primarily designed to fund the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s expansive $51.5 billion infrastructure plan. These projects could face significant delays if the lawsuit halts the pricing plan.