Gov. Phil Murphy came down on New York’s congestion pricing plan, which would hike the costs for commuters traveling across the Hudson River during rush hour, saying New Jersey should have far greater say in how the proposal moves ahead.
“Any scheme that discriminates against New Jersey commuters will not be supported by me or my administration, and god willing that’s something we can work out,” Murphy said during a daily COVID-19 press briefing on April 12. “The proceeds from this pricing scheme, if N.J.’s folks are paying into this … we deserve to get a fair amount out.”
Under the plan, New York City officials would levy a once-daily toll for vehicles entering the “Central Business District,” which stretches from the south end of Central Park all the way to Battery Park at the south end of Manhattan Island. New York officials plan to use the proceeds from the proposal to pay for large-scale and sorely-needed infrastructure upgrades to the New York City subway system.
“It’s more important than ever that our region has a strong and robust MTA to help power the economic recovery from this unprecedented crisis, and as traffic returns to pre-pandemic levels we must tackle congestion,” Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Patrick Foye said in a March 30 statement.
The plan was moved by the Federal Highway Administration on March 30, when it said state and New York City officials needed to only conduct an environmental assessment instead of the more cumbersome, drawn-out and bureaucratic environmental impact statement.
New Jersey U.S. Reps. Josh Gottheimer and Bill Pascrell, both Democrats, said they would be pressing the U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg – whose department oversees the FRA – to pause the plan to allow for more public input. In a joint letter to Buttigieg sent last week, the two called for a “comprehensive review and public process,” which they wrote was “required to ensure this process is fair.”
“They want to tax New Jersey, take it out of our commute and put it on our bill” for no benefit to the Garden State, Gottheimer said at a press conference the morning of April 9 at the Fort Lee entrance to the George Washington Bridge, where many of those commuters would enter New York City.
Pascrell, who represents the state’s 9th Congressional District, estimated that should drivers have to pay the congestion fee, they could shell out another $3,000 of expenses for traveling across the Hudson River.
The plan has much that still needs to be worked out, including the exact pricing structure. It initially gained traction in 2019, but was halted by the pandemic and mass shift to stay-at-home.
Murphy and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, in April 2019, announced a tentative “conceptual understanding” in which New Jersey would forgo any revenue from the surcharge. Under that loose agreement, drivers on the three Hudson River crossings – the George Washington Bridge and the Lincoln and Holland tunnels – would be credited for the amount already paid in tolls.