Murphy: NYC Congestion Pricing Plan Violates Constitution

Amended Lawsuit Says Plan Discriminates Against New Jersey Residents
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy. (Aristide Economopoulos/Bloomberg News)

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New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy is again pushing back on New York’s plan to charge motorists driving into Manhattan’s central business district, saying it violates the U.S. Constitution, as the new toll discriminates against New Jersey residents.

New Jersey in July sued the U.S. Department of Transportation, claiming the tolling plan needs a longer environmental analysis. The suit now adds New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which is implementing the plan, as a defendant, according to an amended complaint filed Jan. 16.

New Jersey claims that congestion pricing violates the dormant commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits states from enacting laws that discriminate against or unduly burden interstate commerce, according to the amended complaint. The congestion pricing plan fails to direct any of the new revenue to New Jersey or offer tax credits to its residents or charge those living in the district — who are New Yorkers — for driving within the area, according to the amended complaint.

“The federal government and the MTA can no longer be permitted to fast-track a proposal that solely benefits New York’s transportation system at the expense of hardworking New Jerseyans,” Murphy said in a statement Jan. 16.

John McCarthy, MTA’s head of policy and external relations, pointed out that drivers from outside New Jersey pay tolls on its roadways.

“You got to be kidding!,” McCarthy said in an emailed statement. “New Jersey collects millions from New York drivers who use the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway, but it’s somehow unconstitutional for New York to toll its own roads?”

Holland Tunnel

Vehicles approach the Holland Tunnel in Jersey City, N.J. (Michael Nagle/Bloomberg News)

New Jersey is seeking preliminary and permanent injunctions to stop the MTA from its “construction activities” for the plan or implementing the new tolls, according to the amended complaint. That’s a more direct request to halt the plan’s progress after New Jersey in July asked the court to vacate USDOT’s final approval, which would effectively stop the MTA from moving forward until completing a longer environmental review.

“New Jersey will not receive any of the revenue from the tolling scheme,” according to the amended complaint. “Instead, the congestion pricing scheme solely benefits in-state economic interests, the MTA Capital Program, based on revenue it receives from out-of-state commuters, including New Jersey residents.”

The MTA anticipates charging drivers in late May or June. E-ZPass motorists would start paying $15 during peak periods to enter the district, which runs south of 60th Street to the southern tip of Manhattan. The new toll is expected to bring in $1 billion a year that the MTA would borrow against to raise $15 billion. Those funds will finance capital projects to help modernize the nation’s largest public transportation system.

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