Mayor Bill de Blasio reiterated his push for congestion pricing Thursday, urging state transit honchos to get a move on with the plans to toll drivers entering Manhattan below 61st Street.
“Congestion pricing has always been part of the solution, we got to an agreement, but it still hasn’t happened and it needs to, it needs to happen urgently,” de Blasio told reporters on July 15.
De Blasio’s demands come two days after he said he wanted congestion pricing “as fast as humanly possible,” in response to a reporter’s questions on Tuesday, July 13.
Hizzoner on Thursday announced Department of Finance Commissioner Sherif Soliman as his pick to serve on the MTA’s Traffic Mobility Review Board, which will be tasked with crafting recommendations for how to introduce the so-called Central Business District Tolling and who may be exempt from the charge.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority must convene the six-member panel “immediately,” de Blasio said, and the mayor — who leaves office on Jan. 1, 2022 — added that he wants the toll to be in effect later that year.
Congestion pricing was approved by the state Legislature in 2019 and was supposed to launch in 2021, but the Trump administration stalled any progress for the program for two years.
President Biden’s cabinet on March 30 finally allowed the MTA to move ahead with an Environmental Assessment, which will examine the toll’s potential effects.
The agency must submit the review to the Federal Highway Administration.
The scheme promises to bring in $1 billion a year in new revenues for the MTA to fund upgrades for its transit network and would generate $15 billion in new debt financing the Authority can use to fund its $51.5 billion 2020-2024 capital plan, nearly 30% of the massive spending proposal.
MTA chief financial officer Robert Foran said last month that the agency was fine without congestion pricing dollars for now, as transit officials are able to front the capital program with other state tax revenues.
“Right now, we’re fronting the capital program with the sales tax moneys that we have and the mansion tax moneys that we have, so we’re not in a position now to really be needing, absolutely at this time, point in time, the congestion pricing proceeds for the capital program,” said Foran said at MTA’s June 23 monthly board meeting.
However, later that day, MTA chairman and chief executive officer Pat Foye emphasized that the agency still needs the multi-billion-dollar windfall.
“We have 15 billion reasons to have congestion pricing absolutely as quickly as we can,” Foye told reporters after the board meeting.
De Blasio on Thursday was puzzled by Foran’s statement, saying they didn’t make any sense to him.
“The MTA, on the one hand, they cry poverty and then, on the other hand, they say, ‘Oh we can’t move,’ it doesn’t make any sense,” the mayor said.
MTA’s senior advisor to Foye on congestion pricing, Ken Lovett, responded in a statement saying that the agency is working with the feds to come up with a “robust” public outreach process for the project and they also want it implemented “as soon as possible.”
“[T]he Biden administration on March 30 directed us to conduct an Environmental Assessment process with robust public outreach,” Lovett said. “Since then, we have been in deep, detailed and productive discussions with the Federal Highway Administration over exactly what that entails. We will move forward on a timeline that meets all requirements set out for us.”