Where does NYC congestion pricing stand? MTA, feds are advancing toward an answer

Heavy traffic – and emissions – on Canal Street during rush hour in late August 2020. (Photo by Mark Hallum)

A new administration in the White House means talks between the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the federal government have found traction.

So what does that mean for New Yorkers wondering when congestion pricing will finally be implemented, providing more cash for mass transit, cleaner air and fewer cars in Manhattan?

According to MTA officials, there are no set dates for when the state can go to town tolling motorists commuting and traveling through New York City, but the money is there after Thursday’s board meeting and the federal government is working to provide the criteria needed for an environmental review.

“What they conveyed was that they understood that this had been sat on by the prior administration, it had not been dealt with timely or appropriately manner and that they were going to give us, one a timely response on the mechanics of which version of the environmental review they wanted completed,” MTA Chief Development Officer Janno Lieber said. “And two, that they would work with us to facilitate our completion of the submission of the data and their review and action on the data.”

The infrastructure alone will cost the agency up $500 million, something that was approved by the MTA board in Thursday’s meeting in which the finances seem more stable than in prior months of the pandemic, nearing its one-year anniversary.

“In this board meeting, we actually got approved the money to go out and build the infrastructure,” Lieber added. “So, we are taking every step that makes us ready to move quickly when the, the feds who are now real partners in this do take their action.”

Adopting congestion pricing has been almost a four-year process, starting with Governor Andrew Cuomo searching out options for a dedicated revenue stream for the agency which in 2017 and 2018 was struggling yet again to bring it’s finances and the subway system into a state of good repair.

The state legislature approved a broad proposal for congestion pricing for any car or truck entering Manhattan below 60th Street, meaning that New York State needed no further approvals, according to MTA Chairman Pat Foye.

“There will be public hearings, the state law that will authorize congestion pricing did not create a need to have a state separate state environmental process the environmental process that will determine this is the one that USDOT and FHWA who specifically will determine and as you know that’s advice and direction that we’ve been waiting for well over a year and a half,” Foye said.

Also approved by the board was a 7% toll increase for motorists heading through MTA bridges and tunnels with resident discounts for those living in Queens and Staten Island remain in place.