NJ Gov. Murphy calls on the feds to slow down their plan

Governor Phil Murphy has asked the Federal Highway Administration to slow down the congestion pricing program, according to a letter obtained by NorthJersey.com and The Record, a move that could add strain to relations between states on either side of the Hudson River.

“While New Jersey is conceptually open to traditional congestion pricing that makes traffic reduction its primary goal, the program as proposed has revenue generation as its primary goal,” reads the letter from Seven. pages at FHWA, dated September 23. “There is a high degree of uncertainty and potential for significant impact associated with the (Central Business District tolling scheme) as noted. As such, an Environmental Impact Assessment should be completed.”

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority released its 4,005-page environmental assessment document in August that outlined seven scenarios for how to charge vehicles a new toll to enter the central business district, which are the local streets below 60th Street in Manhattan.

The program’s goals are to reduce congestion, improve air quality, encourage people to use public transit, and raise more than $1 billion a year in dedicated funds for the MTA to improve subways and buses.

Previously:Buses reduce traffic congestion, but should they be exempt from new tolls?

Six public hearings have been held in recent weeks to solicit comments on the program and Friday marked the last day for the public to send in MTA comments on the document. The MTA will now send the document and public comments to the FHWA for review.

The FHWA is expected to issue a decision on the environmental assessment in January. If the agency determines that there is a “no significant impact finding”, then the MTA’s Toll Mobility Review Board can begin deciding how much tolls, how credits work, which vehicles will be exempted and to begin construction of the necessary infrastructure. start ringing. If it’s not FHWA’s decision, the agency can order the MTA to conduct a more thorough review, known as an environmental impact statement, which the Murphy administration is requesting.

For subscribers:How NJ lost $850 million to NY: Insight into negotiations to split federal transit funds

Murphy, in his letter, said the release of the EA “at the end of the summer is insufficient for review and comment” and said New Jersey has no representation in creating the program. , but has “the unfortunate distinction of being directly impacted”.

In recent weeks, Murphy’s concern about congestion pricing has seemed to increase. At a recent press conference, the governor threatened to veto Port Authority Board meetings in New York and New Jersey.

“It’s a bi-state authority. Minutes have to be approved by both governors. It’s very simple,” Murphy said.

Asked about Murphy’s threats to seek further scrutiny after the MTA’s board meeting this week, MTA President and CEO Janno Lieber said, “The Biden administration has given us direction about what kind of environmental process they want us to go through. We did it to a tee. It was all overseen by the USDOT, so I’m confident that the USDOT isn’t going to suddenly reverse all of its decisions and move in a direction that would delay this very pro-climate change initiative.

Our point of view:Congestion pricing? Of course, as long as the Jersey pilots are not screwed

One of New Jersey’s biggest concerns is whether or not it will receive credit for already paying high tolls to enter Midtown Manhattan at the Lincoln and Holland tunnels and the George Washington Bridge. Car entry fees at these crossings can be as high as $16; the new congestion pricing toll could be an additional $23.

Murphy and New York Governor Kathy Hochul attended several transportation-related events this summer, assuring voters and area leaders that the two states are on board and working together to get long-awaited projects off the ground. But sharing the funds and agreeing how to share the costs has been a sore point.

Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-Wyckoff, has been one of the most vocal against congestion pricing, criticizing New York for “making fun of us.” He agreed with Murphy’s decision to pursue a longer study.

“We watched the MTA public hearings, and 74% of people who testified opposed the congestion charge plan,” Gottheimer said in a statement. “That’s why we need FHWA to complete a more rigorous environmental impact statement, so North Jersey families can know how this ridiculous tax will fully affect them.”

Meanwhile, a group of New Jersey advocates rallied Thursday in favor of congestion pricing.

“MTA’s long-awaited congestion plan is a bold move to provide long-term funding for New York City’s transit system – a system New Jersey Transit commuters depend on,” said Doug O’Malley. , director of Environment New Jersey. “Once congestion pricing is in place, there will be a need to increase parity for NJ Transit from the funding generated. downtown Manhattan.”

Colleen Wilson covers the Port Authority and NJ Transit for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to his work covering the region’s transport systems and how they affect your travels, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @colleenallreds

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