The Federal Highway Administration on Friday approved the public release of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s environmental assessment of its plan to toll most passenger vehicles entering commercial districts in the Manhattan borough of New York City, paving the way for its final approval.
In a letter, the FHWA informed the MTA that it conditionally approved the plan after reviewing all public comments on the Central Business District Tolling Program’s final environmental assessment and an analysis carried out by the MTA, the New York State Department of Transportation and the New York City Department of Transportation.
“The FHWA is now poised to issue a Finding of No Significant Impact, the federal environmental approval which will allow the state to move forward with congestion pricing program design and adoption,” said Mary Barber, state director of New York and New Jersey for the Environmental Defense Fund, in a statement. The public will have 30 days to review a draft of the document, the letter says.
Many advocates, urban planners and public officials in New York support the congestion pricing program, which would be the first in the U.S., pointing to evidence that similar policies in London, Stockholm and Singapore have led to reduced traffic congestion and air pollution from vehicle emissions. Revenue from the program would also help fund the MTA’s $51 billion capital investment plan. That could be a boon for the agency, which has faced funding shortfalls.
"Congestion pricing is a generational opportunity to make it easier for people to get around in, and get to, the Central Business District, by reducing traffic and funding improvements to the public transit system,” said John McCarthy, an MTA spokesperson, in a statement. “To do it right, environmental equity has been an integral component.”
But the plan has faced opposition from suburban residents and politicians in New York and New Jersey. They worry that the program, which could charge motorists up to $23 per day to enter Lower Manhattan, would place an undue financial burden on commuters, businesses, taxi and ride-hailing drivers. They’re also concerned about increased traffic congestion and air pollution in the surrounding areas, as motorists try to avoid congestion fees by using different routes into the city.
In a joint statement, U.S. Reps. Josh Gottheimer and Rob Menendez, said the federal government should not approve New York’s congesting pricing program “without conducting a full Environmental Impact Statement study.”
The U.S. Department of Transportation and FHWA “blindsided families across Jersey and New York by allowing the MTA to take the next step with their anti-environment, cash-grabbing $23-a-day Congestion Tax plan,” the statement says. “By the MTA’s own admission in their report, the Congestion Tax plan would increase traffic, and increase pollutants and mobile air toxins through 2045 in the Bronx, Staten Island, Nassau County, and Bergen County.”