N.J. Governor Wants Feds to Revisit NYC Toll Plan

Murphy Seeks Full Environmental Review Before $23 Rate Is Implemented
N.J. Gov. Phil Murphy

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New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy is urging the federal government to re-examine New York City’s plan to start charging motorists driving into midtown Manhattan, saying an environmental review of the project is flawed.

Murphy’s request comes as the Federal Highway Administration could give final approval of the tolling plan, the nation’s first-ever congestion pricing initiative, any day. Drivers may be charged as much as $23 to enter south of 60th street, the city’s central business district.

While Murphy supports the concept of tolling into midtown Manhattan, he has said the current proposal unfairly charges New Jersey commuters and puts Garden State communities at risk of increased traffic and pollution. The initiative should have undergone a full environmental review rather than a shorter evaluation, the governor wrote in a 15-page letter to the FHWA dated June 12.

New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which operates the city’s subways, buses and commuter rail roads, is implementing the tolling plan. Murphy on June 13 reiterated that his administration is reviewing all legal options.

“We take serious issue with any scheme that is designed not to lessen congestion or pollution, but to line the coffers of the MTA on the backs of hardworking New Jerseyans,” Murphy said in a statement.

Congestion pricing is expected to bring in $1 billion of new revenue every year for the MTA to help finance capital projects and modernize the largest U.S. transit system. MTA officials anticipate the tolling program would reduce daily traffic by as much as 20% and boost ridership on public transportation.

“The tolling plan’s effects on traffic and air quality throughout the region, which showed overall regional benefits, have been exhaustively detailed in the thousands of pages that constitute one of the longest and most comprehensive environmental assessments produced since the establishment of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1970,” John McCarthy, the MTA’s chief of external relations, said in a statement June 13.

Drivers may start paying the toll as soon as April 2024. E-ZPass users could pay as much as $23 during peak hours and $17 during off-peak periods.

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Murphy points out the environmental assessment’s flaws in his letter to the FHWA, stating it fails to address the potential increase in traffic and pollution to New Jersey neighborhoods and would place unreasonable tolls on commuter buses.

“Despite the limited environmental review conducted so far, what remains obvious are the severe and long-lasting detriments that will be endured not just by our commuters and transportation agencies, but by residents of environmental justice communities who will see traffic unfairly redirected into their neighborhoods,” Murphy said in his statement.