Murphy chides New Yorks MTA over $15 congestion toll

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(The Center Square) — New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy is doubling down on criticism of the New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s plans to charge a $15 congestion pricing toll to enter Manhattan, arguing that the process of approving the new charges violates state laws.

In written comments to the Triborough Bridge & Tunnel Authority, which will set the tolls for New York City’s new congestion pricing program, Murphy argues that the process to establish the tolling system violates New York State law and demonstrates that the MTA is “taking shortcuts” to “rush through its ill-conceived and ill-considered” program.

“In the rush to implement a first-in-the-nation congestion pricing scheme, the TBTA and the MTA have failed to engage in an adequate rulemaking process…” Murphy wrote in the comments.

“Moreover, the tolling recommendations being considered by the TBT raise significant concerns that the adopted tolling scheme will be contrary to state law, as well as arbitrary and capricious and unconstitutional,” he wrote.

Murphy makes several recommendations to the transit agency, including expanding and creating new credits for commuters and low-income drivers who will pay the new tolling charges.

He said the changes would “help address the unfair and disproportionate, economic and environmental burdens the tolling scheme will place on New Jersey, its residents and its communities.”

Murphy also calls on the agencies to not charge tolls during off-peak hours, noting that the MTA’s stated goals for the new tolling system is to reduce traffic and tailpipe pollution.

“As traffic dwindles during off peak hours, congestion is no longer a significant concern. and tolling is no longer an efficient or appropriate means of traffic reduction,” the governor wrote.

Murphy’s renewed criticism of the project comes as the MTA steams ahead with plans to charge drivers $15 to enter Manhattan below 60th Street, which the transit agency says will reduce traffic, congestion and tailpipe pollution while raising billions of dollars.

The new charges, which would go into effect this year, will include a $15 toll for passenger vehicles entering the city from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m., a $24 toll for small trucks and a $36 charge for larger trucks, like 18-wheelers. Ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft will pay a $2.50 surcharge.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, has praised the move as a “critical step forward” and said it will mean “cleaner air, better transit and less gridlock on New York City’s streets.”

The MTA plans to offer a 25% discount for low-income commuters, or those making $50,000 or less annually, and on-peak and off-peak tolls if they make at least 10 trips to the zone.

But the plan is being challenged in court by Murphy and other New Jersey officials who’ve called it a “cash grab” to help subsidize New York City’s struggling public transit system.

Murphy, a Democrat, said he supports the congestion pricing concept but argues the MTA’s plan is “neither fair nor equitable” to New Jersey motorists.