New York’s congestion pricing plan would harm New Jersey residents by pushing traffic and air pollution into communities surrounding the city, two Democratic members of Congress from North Jersey said Tuesday.
The comments from Reps. Rob Menendez and Josh Gottheimer at a press conference outside the Holland Tunnel come a few days after the Biden administration approved an environmental review of the plan, giving the Metropolitan Transit Authority the green light to begin charging drivers entering central Manhattan at peak times.
The congestion tax is intended to reduce gridlock in New York City’s busiest areas, but opponents of the tax say it will harm the environment and impose a financial burden on hardworking families who commute into the city.
“New York City wants this because they want cash in their pockets,” Menendez said. “We’re going to keep fighting the cash-grabbing MTA.”
The congestion tax shifts money from the Port Authority to the MTA, Menendez said, which could threaten the Port Authority’s ability to improve the PATH service and add more riders.
New York’s plan also includes no expansion of New York City subway’s seven line to Secaucus Junction, a proposed solution that would provide a commuting alternative and get cars off the road, Menendez said.
Gottheimer, who co-chairs the Congressional Anti-Congestion Tax Caucus, called the tax plan “absurd” and “anti-environment.” He said a full environmental study should be done and he intends to submit a comment during the 30-day review period demanding the Biden administration reconsider the decision.
The MTA hasn’t determined how much to charge drivers, but options include fares ranging from $9 to $23 for passenger vehicles.
Gottheimer has introduced legislation in the meantime intended to aid commuters, which includes laborers, nurses and restaurant workers who can’t afford the added costs.
“It’s not right to suddenly drop a $23 dollar-a-day, or $5,000-a-year bill, on top of the $17 dollars they pay to enter this tunnel every day, not including gas or nearly $35 dollars to park,” Gottheimer said.
The environmental assessment of the plan found that the congestion tax, if implemented this year, would increase pollutants in the Bronx, Staten Island, Nassau and Bergen Counties. It also showed there would be increases in particulate matter, nitrogen oxide and carbon monoxide in Bergen County this year.
“New York’s congestion pricing plan stands to push traffic and pollution to our communities,” Menendez said. “While New York is funding environmental mitigation in the Bronx, they refuse to do so for our communities.”
The MTA plans to spend $130 million in revenue to mitigate environmental impacts in New York, but will not do so in New Jersey.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy called the Biden administration’s approval of the plan “unfair and ill-advised.” Murphy said his administration is looking into legal options to fight the plan.
“Everyone in the region deserves access to more reliable mass transit, but placing an unjustified financial burden on the backs of hardworking New Jersey commuters is wrong,” Murphy said in a statement.