The Federal Highway Administration (FHA) has approved New York City’s much-discussed congestion pricing plan, marking a significant milestone for the first initiative of its kind in the United States.
The authorization confirms that the congestion pricing plan will have no substantial environmental impact, thus eliminating the need for a more comprehensive environmental review.
The congestion pricing initiative, designed to charge drivers for entering Midtown and Lower Manhattan, could be operational by spring 2024. Governor Kathy Hochul highlighted the potential benefits of reduced traffic, improved air quality, and additional funds for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA).
The congestion pricing plan had been anticipated to secure approval since its preliminary approval by the FHA in May. The state now has approximately 310 days to make the system operational, aiming for an implementation timeline of April 2024.
The congestion pricing plan could generate around $1 billion in annual revenue for the MTA, which would be utilized to finance $15 billion in loans for mass transit upgrades. Amidst sinking ridership during the COVID-19 pandemic, the agency’s financial struggles have deepened, pushing them further into an abyss of debt.
The congestion pricing initiative proposes that drivers with an E-ZPass could pay up to $23 to enter the region south of 60th Street during peak times and $17 during off-peak hours. Although exact rates, discounts, and exceptions are yet to be determined, the proposal includes some rate reductions for lower-income drivers. The plan could reduce daily vehicle influx in the region by 20%.
Despite the recent approval, the congestion plan has encountered opposition, notably from New Jersey politicians like Democratic representative Josh Gottheimer and Governor Phil Murphy, who are considering legal and legislative actions against it.
A spokesperson of Governor Murphy said, “The Federal Highway Administration’s decision to green-light the MTA’s proposed tolling program marks yet another slight against hardworking New Jerseyans in favor of an agency concerned not with removing vehicles from our roads, but with lining its own coffers.”
The spokesperson added, “New Jersey remains steadfast in opposing a toll system that could disproportionately impact communities focusing on environmental justice and significantly disrupt our commuters and transit agencies.”
Pushing back on the criticism, a representative from Governor Hochul’s office highlighted the numerous public transportation options, such as PATH trains and buses, available to transport residents of New Jersey into New York City.
Notably, New York City is not the first city to implement congestion pricing worldwide, with similar programs already in effect in London, Singapore, and Stockholm.