De Blasio reiterates push for MTA to step up congestion pricing in Manhattan


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Mayor Bill de Blasio and a group of local politicians again pushed on Tuesday the big names in state transportation to step down on the proposed toll for drivers heading to Manhattan below 61st Street in order to fund improvements to the city’s transit system.

“The congestion, unfortunately, is back and it’s starting to come back in force,” de Blasio said during his daily press briefing on July 20. “But what about the congestion pricing, when you watch New York State, when you watch the MTA, you hear the sound of crickets because nothing is happening.

Hizzoner called on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to convene a six-member panel known as the Traffic Mobility Review Board, which is required to make recommendations on the operation of the so-called Central Business District Tolling, including the amount of fees and who gets exempt.

De Blasio on July 15 named his only choice for the six-member board of directors, with finance ministry commissioner Sherif Soliman saying at the time that he wanted the MTA to take effect by the end of the year. end of 2022 with all the prep work done by June. of this year and “shovel the ground” in July.

This followed an earlier comment he made in response to a question from a reporter on July 13 that he wanted to see the charges “as quickly as humanly possible”.

On Tuesday, de Blasio renewed his appeal by bringing in an oversized check for $ 15 billion, the prop symbolizing the amount of new debt financing congestion pricing that is expected to generate for the MTA, in addition to income. annual toll of $ 1 billion.

“Imagine what $ 15 billion could do for your daily subway trips,” the mayor said. “Any problem the MTA says it has could be resolved with this. We want to fix the horrible flooding that we saw last week, if we want to make sure the signals are set so that the trains can actually run, if you want modern stations, here she is, looking us in the face. “

The funds represent almost 30% of MTA’s $ 51.5 billion 2020-2024 capital plan and the tax would also encourage people to switch from driving to public transit.

MTA chief financial officer Robert Foran told the agency’s board meeting last month that the agency is doing fine without the congestion pricing dollars at the moment, as officials public transport are able to cope with the investment program with other state tax revenues.

State Assembly Member Robert Carroll (D – Brooklyn) made a more urgent appeal, joining the mayor’s rallying cry on Tuesday and saying he wanted to see the transportation agency go from there. before this year.

“It is unacceptable that the state, which controls the MTA, does not act on this critical and critical issue. We have to do it and we have to do it now, ”Carroll said. “We cannot allow this year to end without this happening. “

The state legislature approved congestion pricing in 2019 and officials planned to launch the charge in 2021, but the Trump administration has suspended all progress for two years.

On March 30, President Biden’s cabinet finally authorized the MTA to conduct a so-called environmental assessment, a document required before implementation that will summarize the potential effects of the toll.

MTA’s senior adviser on congestion pricing, Ken Lovett, reiterated that the agency wanted the program to go into effect “as soon as possible,” but said officials were still discussing the issues with its federal partners, state and municipal.

“The MTA follows this detailed process which does not allow for arbitrary shortcuts,” Lovett said in a statement. “An EA is complicated, and we are working on issues with the Federal Highway Administration and our partners in the New York City and New York State Departments of Transportation. As we have said on several occasions, the Central Business District toll program will be a huge environmental benefit for the region while providing a huge boost to public transport, and we are working diligently to implement it as soon as possible.

Governor Cuomo’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

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